DETROIT — The combination of the Tigers and left-handed starters is essentially the perfect mix for the A’s — catnip, nirvana, all things good.
Oakland beats up on left-handed pitching this season and has continued to own Detroit, and how.
The A’s got homers from Nick Hundley and Chad Pinder on Saturday and Daniel Mengden provided a super start in a 4-1 victory, Oakland’s 15th consecutive win over the Tigers and 10th in a row at Comerica Park. The A’s have taken the first three games of the series with the finale Sunday; a sweep would tie the all-time franchise record for longest winning streak against one team, matching the 16 in a row over the Yankees from Sept. 9, 1989-May 1, 1991.
The A’s have hit 39 homers on the road, fourth most in the league, and the team’s 26 homers off left-handers are the most in the majors. Oakland is 10-5 in games started by opposing lefties, 12-20 in games started by right-handers.
Mengden, making his second appearance since being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas last Sunday, went seven innings and allowed just three hits, using his fastball and slider to get ahead of hitters.
Photo: Carlos Osorio / Associated Press
“They were really aggressive the past two days, and we figured it might be the case again,” Mengden said of the Tigers. “We just kind of attacked them with the heater in and then once we got them in, we started going down and away.”
Mengden walked two, both in the first inning, and retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. “It was good to see him get a really good start under his belt,” manager Bob Melvin said.
The A’s entered the series with a bullpen that had been overworked after the team played extra innings four times in eight games. In the first three games at Detroit, the starters have worked all but 3 ⅓ innings, and have allowed just three runs in 23 ⅔ innings.
Over their past 18 starts, the A’s starters have a 2.93 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 107 ⅓ innings.
“We know what we’re capable of,” Mengden said. “We want to be that backbone for the team and, as a group, we’re really happy with where we are right now and want to keep going.”
The run off Mengden came in the fourth, when Ronny Rodriguez doubled, went to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
Oakland’s first runs came from an unexpected source — catcher Hundley entered the day batting .192 with no homers and one RBI before cracking a two-run homer to right off Matthew Boyd in the third. “Especially opposite field … that’s not easy to do here,” Melvin said. “When you’re able to call a one-run game like that and contribute a two-run homer, that’s got to make him feel pretty good.”
Hundley is 8 for his past 25 after starting the season 3-for-30, and, he said, “The last couple of weeks I’ve felt I’m in a much better place than the first couple of weeks. Now it’s just a matter of time to get to a point where I feel comfortable.”
In the fifth, Robbie Grossman, in the lineup because Khris Davis was a late scratch with left hip soreness, reached on an infield single and scored on Jurickson Profar’s one-out double, one of Profar’s three hits. And in the seventh, Pinder hit his second homer in two days and fifth of the season.
The A’s only gaffe came in the eighth, when reliever Lou Trivino cut in front of Platinum Glove-winner Matt Chapman for a roller by JaCoby Jones, then threw wildly past first. The error did not lead to a run, and Trivino and Blake Treinen each pitched scoreless innings.
“That’s really the kind of game we got a lot last year,” Melvin said, adding with a smile, “Some homers, good pitching, and other than Lou thinking he was a better defender than Chapman at third base, the defense was good too.”