Tigers pinch Oakland Athletics 4 to 3

DETROIT - Wendell Magee made sure the Detroit Tigers didn't waste a bases-loaded opportunity.

Magee hit a three-run triple in the first inning as the Tigers won their sixth straight, 4-3 over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.

After Bobby Higginson singled with two outs, Juan Gonzalez followed with a ground single off Oakland starter Barry Zito's glove. Dean Palmer walked to load the bases, and Magee followed with a long fly off the scoreboard in right-center field.

''All season, we've been talking about how we need to do a better job of getting runs with the bases loaded,'' Magee said.

''There were two out this time, but still, you want to do something. That's what I was concentrating on when I came up to the plate - to get a hit and get us off to a good start.''

Deivi Cruz then hit a soft liner past center fielder Terrence Long for a double that made it 4-0. He also doubled in his next two at-bats to tie Billy Bruton's team mark, set in 1963.

Brian Moehler (10-7) extended his winning streak to four starts, the longest of his career. He gave up two runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings.

''Mo struggled a bit with his control, but he's a battler,'' Tigers catcher Brad Ausmus said. ''He had good velocity, but he couldn't control the slider and change. But he got through it, and only allowed a couple runs.''

Moehler matched his win total from last year, when he went 10-16, as the Tigers moved within one victory over getting to .500 for the first time since they were 1-1.

Oakland scored once in the fifth and twice in the eighth, but could never recover from Detroit's big first inning.

Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his league-leading 34th save.

Zito (1-2) lost to the Tigers for the second time in six days, allowing four runs and nine hits in six-plus innings. He walked one and struck out five.

''I knew that after I gave them four in the first, I couldn't let them score again,'' Zito said. ''Moehler is pitching too well to get any further behind than we already were.''

Oakland put runners on base in each of the first four innings, but couldn't get any of them home.

The A's finally broke through in the fifth when Ryan Christenson beat out an infield single, moved up on two groundouts and scored on Mike Stanley's single.

Nelson Cruz replaced Moehler after Ben Grieve walked to lead off the eighth, and allowed an RBI double to Stanley on his only pitch.

Pinch-hitter Adam Piatt singled off C.J. Nitkowski and Miguel Tejada followed with an RBI single to make it 4-3.

After the left-handed Nitkowski got an 0-2 count on pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez, Tigers manager Phil Garner switched to righty Danny Patterson.

Patterson finished the strikeout, then got Frank Menechino to bounce into a forceout at second.

''I knew Hernandez would be bunting, so I left C.J. out there to try to get a force at third,'' Garner said. ''After he didn't get the bunt down, and he swung away and fouled the next pitch off, I knew he wouldn't be bunting anymore, so I brought Patty in to try to get a double play. Instead, he got the strikeout and then a grounder.''

Jeremy Giambi pinch-hit for Sal Fasano and grounded out to end the rally. Giambi is hitting just .093 (4-43) in his last 20 games.

''That inning was our shot,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. ''We gave it everything we had, but we came up short. It really hurts to lose when Barry did such a great job battling back from that first inning. It's hard to lose to an infield chopper like that.''

Notes:

After allowing just seven runs in his first four career starts, Zito has given up nine in two appearances against Detroit. The Tigers have also handed him the only two losses of his career. ... Gonzalez's first-inning single extended his hitting streak to a season-best 11 games. ... Jason Giambi (shoulder) and Randy Velarde (neck) did not play for Oakland. Giambi said after the game that he will not play on Sunday, then decide on further action. He does not expect to go on the disabled list.

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