OAKLAND -- This is why Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire called the A's "relentless" on Friday. And that was before a single inning, let alone the deciding 13th that finally saw a runner cross home plate.
What should have been the night of Blaine Hardy's career, a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, became not only a no-decision, but a relative footnote. First, he had to trade outs with Brett Anderson, who retired Detroit's first 16 batters. Then he had to surrender the limelight to Ramon Laureano, whose first Major League hit was a walkoff single in a 1-0 Tigers loss.
"It was one of those nights," Gardenhire said afterwards. "Both pitching staffs just did the shutdown. Somebody was going to get a big hit and drive in a run, and they did."
Still, if Hardy keeps pitching like this, he'll have a hard time surrendering a rotation spot anytime soon. It took a career high in pitches to finally get him to surrender the ball to the bullpen.
"I got to a point where when I went back out for the seventh, I kind of glanced down to see if we had anybody warming up," Hardy said, "and nobody was warming up. So I was like, 'Alright, this game's mine. Let's see how far I can go.'"
The last time the A's saw Hardy, they roughed up the lefty swingman for six runs (three earned) over four-plus innings on June 26 at Comerica Park, chasing him with back-to-back homers in a three-run fifth. He hasn't given up a home run since, though the look on Hardy's face as Matt Olson's second-inning drive sailed over the right-field foul pole showed his fear that he'd surrendered one Friday.
A crew-chief review upheld the initial call of foul ball, but Olson stayed alive for a 13-pitch walk. Add in Olson's leadoff walk in the fifth, and he was the only A's batter to reach base safely through the first six innings. For that matter, he was the only player on either club to reach base until Jose Iglesias doubled with one out in the top of the sixth.
When Hardy faced the A's in Detroit, he threw almost as many cutters (30) as fastballs (32). For the rematch, he threw Oakland a changeup -- 33 of them, to be exact. The A's swung and missed at 13 and took five more for called strikes.
"I have a feeling that the scouting report on me from the last time I faced them was: He's going to throw a lot of cutters, it's going to look like it's off the plate and it's going to come back," Hardy said. "So I think that's what made my changeup much better today than it has been in the past. At some point, I figured they were going to make the adjustment, and they didn't."
The A's never adjusted to Hardy's plan, which forced the Tigers to adjust how they planned to use Hardy. What was supposed to be a limit of 85-90 pitches stretched as Hardy kept Oakland hitless, all the way toward the 100-pitch mark. Even after Jed Lowrie led off the seventh with a ground-ball deep to short and an infield single, putting a potential run in scoring position, Gardenhire let him pitch his way out of it, inducing an inning-ending double play on his career-high 106th and final pitch of the night.
"Our guy did everything he could do," Gardenhire said. "The cool air out here does make a difference, so we let him go as far as we could."
Iglesias' sixth-inning double marked the first of five consecutive innings in which the Tigers put the potential go-ahead run on base, including two on with nobody out in the seventh. Each time, the A's held, including Stephen Piscotty's diving catch to rob Iglesias of a potential two-out RBI single in the 10th. The Tigers responded with double plays to end the seventh, ninth and 10th innings, stranding the potential winning run in scoring position in the ninth when Alex Wilson induced a Khris Davis grounder.
Laureano, called up earlier in the day for his big league debut, kept the game tied in the top of the 13th by throwing out Iglesias at third base. He came up with two on and two out against Buck Farmer and fell into an 0-2 hole on sliders in the dirt before getting a hanger on a 1-2 pitch and hitting an opposite-field liner off the right-field wall.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Iggy thrown out at third: Iglesias' two-out single in the 13th came in an 11-pitch at-bat, culminating with a popup to shallow center. While Iglesias trotted down the line, the ball fell in between Lowrie and Laureano in shallow center field, putting Iglesias on first base. He got his extra-base back with a steal of second but took off when the ball trailed into center. Though Laureano fired on target to third, Iglesias slid in ahead of the ball; he was only out when his lead leg slipped off the bag with the tag still applied. Replay confirmed the out call in 53 seconds.
Friday's game fell one out shy of matching the longest a Major League game has gone scoreless this season. The Indians and Twins took a 0-0 game into the 14th inning on April 18 in San Juan before both teams scored. The Twins eventually won, 2-1, on a walkoff hit in the 16th.
HE SAID IT
"When the umpire called it foul, I was a little skeptical, because from my vantage point it looked like it was fair. And sure enough they [went to replay] and it was like, 'Great, now I'm going to have a homer overturned to the one lefty in the lineup.' But he had some tough ABs all day." -- Hardy, on the near-homer to Olson
Jordan Zimmermann (4-3, 4.44) will make a third try to get back to the first-half form that made him an effective starter in the Tigers rotation as the series continues Saturday with a 9:05 p.m. ET start at Oakland Coliseum. Former Tiger Edwin Jackson (2-2, 3.32) will face his old team for the second time this season, having tossed six innings of one-run ball in his A's debut on June 25 at Comerica Park.