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Oakland Athletics designated hitter Hideki Matsui, of Japan, hits a solo home run against the Detroit Tigers during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 20, 2011, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT -- In a perfect scenario, Hideki Matsui would have made history this weekend at his old stamping grounds of Yankee Stadium.

His 500th home run combined between Japan and the major leagues instead came Wednesday night at Comerica Park, and the timing was no problem for the A's.

Matsui's long-awaited blast highlighted a 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers, a rare night when Oakland's offense carried the load.

He launched a 1-0 pitch from Duane Below that glanced off the right-field pole to lead off the sixth inning, making Matsui the first player to combine for 500 homers in Japan and the major leagues.

"I'm happy to be able to get it out of the way," said Matsui, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs. "Winning the game made it only better."

That's typical of Matsui's team-first approach that has won respect throughout the clubhouse, even as Matsui's first season with the A's hasn't gone according to plan. He is hitting just .223 with seven homers and 43 RBIs, though he has notched eight RBIs over the past three games.

As he went through a 24-game homer drought after hitting No. 499 -- his longest dry spell since a 33-game streak in 2007 -- he never gave any indication his pursuit of history was a priority.

"Hideki seems to be really even-keeled," teammate Landon Powell said. "He hit that homer, and he came in, high-fived everybody and sat down and watched (the game)."


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Wednesday's homer was the 168th of Matsui's nine-year big league career. He hit 112 with the Yankees -- with whom he won 2009 World Series MVP honors. He also hit 332 homers in 10 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Central League.

Twenty-five major leaguers have reached 500 homers. Eight have done it in Japan.

Matsui, 37, downplayed his accomplishment.

"Honestly speaking, the way I look at it, the numbers in Japan and here are separate," he said.

A's manager Bob Melvin had a different take.

"Five hundred homers is quite a feat," Melvin said. "I don't care if it's split between two different places. It's the major leagues in Japan and the major leagues here."

Matsui's homer off Below, a left-hander making his major league debut, gave the A's a 3-2 lead. The Tigers answered with three runs off starter Brandon McCarthy and reliever Joey Devine (1-1) in the bottom of the sixth to take a 5-3 lead.

Then the A's put it away with four runs in the seventh, with RBI singles from Cliff Pennington, Matsui and Conor Jackson and a sacrifice fly from Josh Willingham.

The A's won despite second baseman Jemile Weeks and third baseman Scott Sizemore not starting because of injuries. Jackson made his second career start at third base, and Powell, the backup catcher, made his fifth start at first. Both held their own defensively.

The Tigers were celebrating a "Christmas in July" promotion. As the A's went through pregame infield drills on a 95-degree night, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" blared over the P.A. system.

"With the humidity like that, it was just like you're wearing a blanket," said McCarthy, charged with four runs over five-plus innings.

The A's split the brief two-game series with Detroit and now will play three against the Yankees starting Friday.

Matsui said missing a crack at No. 500 in New York was no big deal, but as he prepared for the team charter bound for the Big Apple, he added: "The next destination is a good place to celebrate."