A's live by the long ball in Detroit
Four home runs, Saarloos' strong start propel victory
DETROIT -- Over and over this season, several A's have uttered a slightly different version of the same phrase when assessing their offense.
"As Chavvy goes, we go."
Eric Chavez went on Wednesday, and the A's went with him.
A night after Oakland was held to two hits, Chavez returned to the lineup after a game away to be with his wife and their newborn son, Diego, and went 3-for-4 with his 21st homer as part of a relentless 15-hit attack.
The A's 9-2 victory over the host Tigers simultaneously snapped a three-game losing streak, snapped the club out of its team-wide offensive funk -- 2.7 runs per game over the previous 13 contests -- and pulled Oakland back into a three-way tie with the Indians and Yankees atop the American League Wild Card standings.
"There's so much baseball to be played," said Chavez. "I still think there's another [hot] stretch left in our bats. ... Hopefully we can score five or six runs tomorrow and get some momentum going into some pretty big series."
The A's travel to Baltimore next for four games against the Orioles, who swept three games in Oakland last week, before flying to Anaheim for three games against the Angels, who lead the AL West by 3 1/2 games.
"It's nice to have the bats come around," said A's manager Ken Macha. "We had a bunch of hits, balls hit hard. Maybe we can get some confidence and get going again."
There were contributions from up and down the lineup, starting with Mark Ellis' leadoff homer. No. 2 hitter Mark Kotsay, No. 3 hitter Bobby Crosby and cleanup man Chavez combined with Ellis to give the A's their first game of the year in which the first four hitters in the lineup went deep. In addition to Chavez, Jay Payton and Adam Melhuse each had three hits, and right-hander Kirk Saarloos extended his personal winning streak to a season-high four games.
But Chavez, who hopped an early morning flight from Oakland to meet up with the team in Rock City, was rightfully the man of the hour.
"He's our guy," Ellis said. "Every team has at least one guy, and he's our guy. He makes everybody around him better. That's pretty obvious."
Macha added, "I just think everybody feels that much better when he's in the lineup."
Saarloos, who scattered seven hits and two walks over seven shutout innings, said Kotsay, whose three-run homer in the fourth inning broke the game open, is an equally important part of the Oakland offense.
"If you take away the games when we were on that hot streak when everyone was hitting," Saarloos said, "and look at the other games we've won, it's pretty much when Chavvy and Kotsay are swinging the bat well. If those guys have good games, we usually win."
Chavez, the lone established power threat in Oakland's lineup, is 6-for-9 with two doubles and a homer over his past two games and is batting .343 (34-for-99) with 10 doubles, six homers and 19 RBIs over his past 26 games.
"Chavvy's basically the key to the lineup," said Payton, "so it's nice to have him back."
And to paraphrase one of the pet lines of former A's outfielder Terrence Long, the scary thing is that Chavez did so much damage despite feeling like a zombie before the game.
"It was probably lack of sleep," he said, striking a chord with new parents everywhere. "I felt terrible. It was almost like I was delusional. I didn't know where I was at."
Saarloos, who hadn't pitched in nine days, made the Tigers look similarly disjointed for much of the night. His sinking fastball was particularly jumpy, helping him get two big double plays.
"We did get a few hits, but then he was able to get that sinker going and then we'd hit into a double play," said Tigers manager Alan Trammell. "Give him credit."
When Detroit did manage to square up with something, Oakland's defense generally came up with something special. Marco Scutaro, filling in at third base while Chavez eased back into the action as designated hitter, turned in a few plays that Saarloos called "phenomenal."
"That's when we play good," Saarloos said. "We don't make errors, we put the ball in play, and we throw strikes. That's our recipe for winning."
As good as Scutaro was, he wasn't involved with the best defensive play of the game. That came with Keiichi Yabu on the mound for mopup duty in the eighth inning, when, with a runner on first and nobody out, Crosby started a ridiculous double play when he ranged far to his right, gloved a ground ball and scooped it from his glove to Ellis at second. Ellis took the feed barehanded and uncorked a quick throw to first, where Dan Johnson dug it out of the dirt.
"That was definitely our best [double play] of the year," Ellis said. "It took a lot of things to go right for that to happen."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.