The Detroit Tigers were close, but faltered in the eighth inning for their 16th loss in 19 games.
Down 3-0 after the first inning, the Tigers clawed their way back, scoring two in the fifth and one in the sixth to tie it.
But this time it was the bullpen — which entered Thursday with a 2.71 ERA that ranked third in the majors — that couldn’t finish the job.
With two outs in the eighth, Oakland’s Jed Lowrie worked a walk off Michael Fulmer. The next batter, Seth Brown, sent a 3-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers to set the final score at 5-3.
Detroit (9-23) is now 4-28 against Oakland since the start of the 2017 season and dropped four of five in this series. The Athletics had lost nine straight before arriving in Detroit.
Despite picking up the loss, Tigers starter Beau Brieske threw the best game of his young career.
After throwing 35 pitches in first inning — including allowing a slow ground ball to roll between his legs for an error, leading to an unearned run — he locked in over the next five frames.
Brieske allowed only three batters to reach base in innings 2-6, on 58 total pitches.
He didn’t miss many bats — just five swings and misses — but he induced weak contact all afternoon and finished with his first quality start: six innings, three runs (two earned) allowed, on four hits and three walks with two strikeouts.
That bought the offense some time to chip away, which it finally did in the fifth inning. After a Willi Castro single and Spencer Torkelson walk, Tucker Barnhart ripped a double to the right-center wall to score a run.
Robbie Grossman followed with an RBI groundout on a fielder’s choice to make it 3-2.
Detroit needed just two batters in the sixth to tie the game, as reliever Domingo Acevedo replaced starter James Kaprelian for the A’s. On a 1-2 count, Jeimer Candelario jumped on a fastball, smacking a triple into the right-center gap.
On the next pitch, Miguel Cabrera hit a one-hopper off the right-field wall for a double, tying the game at three. The next three Tigers — Harold Castro, Jonathan Schoop and Willi Castro — couldn’t bring Cabrera home, however.
After the Tigers and A’s traded scoreless frames in the seventh inning — during which Tigers reliever Will Vest worked a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts — Detroit’s most reliable reliever couldn’t get out of the eighth.
Fulmer recorded two quick outs before walking Lowrie and giving up the decisive two-run shot to Smith.
Detroit went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, including a Javier Báez groundout after pinch-hitting for Harold Castro with two outs. Joe Jimenez came on in the ninth and got Oakland out in order.
Instad, Schoop chased a 3-2 pitch for a strikeout, Willi Castro popped up to center field and Torkelson fouled out to the first-base side.
The Tigers have not won a game while allowing more than two runs since Opening Day, a 5-4 comeback victory over the Chicago White Sox on April 8.
Contact Tony Garcia at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.