DETROIT — For the Detroit Tigers, a walk-off grand slam happens like clockwork. Once every 10 years, it’s time to hit another one.
On the day the franchise honored the 30th anniversary of the 1984 World Series team, Rajai Davis hit his third career grand slam with one out in the ninth, giving the Tigers a 5-4 victory over the Oakland A’s.
“I can’t even remember the last time I did that,” said Davis, who had never hit a walk-off homer of any kind in the major leagues. “It must have been in my dreams, while I was sleeping.”
It was Detroit’s first game-ending grand slam in almost exactly a decade. Carlos Pena hit one against Arizona on June 27, 2004. Coincidentally, that was the weekend the Tigers honored the 1984 team’s 20th anniversary.
The last one before Pena’s was also 10 years earlier, as Lou Whitaker, a member of the 1984 champs, hit one against Cleveland on June 21, 1994.
Oakland closer Sean Doolittle (2-2) was given a three-run lead to work with in the ninth, but managed only one out. Nick Castellanos and Alex Avila started the inning with singles. Eugenio Suarez struck out, but Doolittle walked Austin Jackson — just the second walk he has issued this season. Jackson fouled off three straight 2-2 pitches before taking a pair of fastballs inside.
“That was a hell of a battle,” Doolittle said. “You could really see him shorten up his swing with two strikes, and he did a real good job.”
Doolittle then missed with a curveball and hung another one over the middle of the plate.
“I just hung … it,” he said. “I threw some good pitches, but I threw some bad ones, and the last one cost us the game.”
Davis didn’t miss it, hitting the ball out down the left-field line.
“That was amazing,” he said. “Austin had a great at-bat, and then I got a pitch that was middle or middle-in. It didn’t do much. I wasn’t sure if I got enough — I was just hoping the wind would blow it out.”
Oakland broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth, helped by a defensive mistake. Yoenis Cespedes led off with a routine grounder to shortstop, but Suarez’s throw sailed well over Miguel Cabrera’s head at first. Brandon Moss followed with an RBI into the left-center field gap, and Sanchez walked Donaldson.
Joba Chamberlain came in and allowed a single to Stephen Vogt, loading the bases. Jed Lowrie made it 4-1 with a two-run single to left, but Phil Coke replaced Chamberlain and got out of the inning.
Nick Castellanos grabbed Alberto Callaspo’s grounder, stepped on third and threw to Ian Kinsler at second for a double play. Kinsler relayed the ball to first, hoping for a 5-4-3 triple play, but Callaspo beat the throw.
Detroit’s rally took Anibal Sanchez off the hook; he now hasn’t lost in his last 10 starts. Blaine Hardy (1-0) picked up his first career victory with a scoreless top of the ninth.
Sanchez, who struck out his 1,000th career batter in the fourth, lost his shutout in the sixth on Lowrie’s RBI single. Cabrera tied the game in the bottom of the inning, sending a 2-2 changeup into the Oakland bullpen beyond the left-center field fence.
Scott Kazmir left in the sixth, one pitch after appearing to grab at his hip. Dan Otero replaced him and kept the game tied through seven innings.
“My calf just cramped up,” Kazmir said. “I was OK until I tried to push off.”
NOTES: Alan Trammell, the 1984 World Series MVP, spoke on behalf of his team before the game. At that point, he was the only Tigers player since World War II to hit a game-ending grand slam with Detroit trailing by three runs. Davis, who stopped warming up to watch Trammell’s speech, became the second just over three hours later. … Trammell and Whitaker received the two biggest ovations, and at the end of the ceremony, Whitaker took the mound with Trammell behind the plate. After a dramatic pause, both jogged to their familiar positions on either side of second base. Whitaker flipped to Trammell, who tagged second and threw to Dave Bergman at first for a ceremonial double play. … Tigers DH Victor Martinez was a late scratch because of a sore side, and was replaced by J.D. Martinez. … The Athletics have allowed three game-ending grand slams since World War II, with two coming against Detroit. In 1983, Lance Parrish hit one off Jeff Jones, who is now Detroit’s pitching coach.