OAKLAND, CALIF. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- Give points for originality to Detroit pitchers John Kiely, Greg Gohr, Mike Munoz and Bob MacDonald. They got together last night and became The Anti-Eck.
This relief quartet walked as many batters in one inning (seven) as Dennis Eckersley walked in 1989 and 1990 combined. The Oakland Athletics graciously accepted these gifts and strolled to a 12-7 victory at the Coliseum.
The A's and Tigers needed 4 hours, 9 minutes to complete the longest nine-inning game in Oakland history.
When the haze of wildness lifted, the A's had scored nine runs in the sixth inning. It was their loudest outburst since June 23, when they set a club record with a 10-run inning against Seattle.
Along the way, the A's erased a 6-2 deficit. They did it with power (home runs by Scott Brosius and Terry Steinbach), execution (two-run single by Mark McGwire) and plain luck (two costly errors by Detroit's Tony Phillips). Mostly, though, they did it with endless patience.
Steinbach's three-run homer pushed the A's ahead 8-6. The walk-a-thon soon followed. At one point, Tigers pitchers slowly and painfully issued four consecutive walks. Each of the last three forced home a run.
Beneath this craziness rested A's starter Ron Darling, clutching his left side. Darling strained a muscle near his left rib cage, immediately jeopardizing the future of Oakland's already precarious starting rotation.
Darling's outing -- shaky from the start -- became more troublesome in the fourth inning. After Rob Deer lined out, trainer Barry Weinberg and manager Tony La Russa trotted to the pitcher's mound.
They chatted with Darling, watched him twist his torso and then ushered him back to the dugout. He had suffered baseball's fashionable, new-wave injury, an all-too-familiar malady for the A's.
Darling's replacement, Kelly Downs (1-0), inherited a 2-2 tie. He kept it that way until the fifth, when big Cecil -- that's Mr. Fielder to you, Kelly -- cranked up his considerable power.
Three consecutive singles brought Fielder to the plate with none out and the bases loaded. The last single, by Travis Fryman, prompted an encore appearance by Weinberg and La Russa. They chatted with Downs, watched him twist his hand and ushered themselves back to the dugout -- without the pitcher.
Downs threw a 1-1 pitch that Fielder hit halfway to Berkeley. The sixth grand slam of Fielder's career gave the Tigers a 6-2 lead, which didn't last long.