DETROIT -- Just when it seemed as if the A's were in danger of seeing the 2013 season slip away, they've come to Motown and rediscovered their groove.
After beating American League ERA leader Anibal Sanchez a day earlier, Oakland came back with a rain-shortened 6-3 win Tuesday over 2011 Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, the same man who beat them twice in the 2012 A.L. Division Series.
The next two games against the Tigers are far from locks, but the A's have at least a split of the four-game series and could emerge from the series re-energized.
"This is how we play," A's starting pitcher Tommy Milone said. "Every team goes through slumps. We don't let it affect us. We grind it out."
No one did more grinding Tuesday than Milone, who looked as if he wouldn't make it out of the first inning. Only six of his first 17 pitches were strikes, and two of those were hits. He squandered an early 2-0 lead, but after the first inning he allowed just one more hit and one walk before play was called with the A's batting in the top of the sixth.
Milone may have been pitching for his spot in the A's rotation. He was promoted back into the rotation after a two-game demotion to Triple-A Sacramento in mid-August, and now the man he replaced in the rotation, Bartolo Colon, is getting set to return Thursday in the series finale after having missed two weeks because of groin problems.
"We'll see," manager Bob Melvin said when asked if Milone would be making another start. "He pitched well for us tonight."
The A's not only are getting Colon back but also are looking for a way to bring back opening day starter Brett Anderson. They could use him in the bullpen, but the way the A's are holding off activating him, they might be looking for a way to move him into the rotation.
If that's the case, then Wednesday starter Dan Straily could, like Milone, be pitching with his status on the line. Straily is 0-5 in his past seven starts with a 5.20 ERA, and four times in those seven starts didn't make it through five innings.
With Milone floundering for his first two dozen pitches, Melvin was wondering if he should get the bullpen up in the first. He didn't, and it paid off. Milone straightened himself out, began hitting the corners and kept the A's competitive.
Yoenis Cespedes got the A's even with a double in the third inning to score Brandon Moss from first with two out. Then in the fifth, Moss teed off on a Verlander changeup and hit it out to left field, an area Moss does not often go. Only one of his first 21 homers went to left field, but No. 22 defied the odds.
"I don't hit (Verlander) very well," Moss said. "I struck out in the first inning, but I drew a walk the second time, and that gave me some confidence. He threw a real good changeup that I missed (to start the third at-bat), but then he threw a changeup that just hung there."
Moss' two-run homer gave the A's a 5-3 lead, and that was a huge differential, because the rain was coming down more heavily as the evening went on.
Given that situation, Melvin was ready to treat the fifth inning as if it were the ninth, because the game would be official once the Tigers batted in the fifth. The manager was ready to get help up in the bullpen, but Milone never gave him pause. The top of the Tigers lineup produced just two grounders and a routine fly ball.
Seth Smith, who had Lasik surgery last week and says he's seeing the ball with better definition, homered off reliever Bruce Rondon to open the sixth as the rain continued to increase. Two more Oakland hits and a walk loaded the bases before the umpires halted play.
After about an hour, the grounds crew tried to get the field ready as the rain eased, but 80 minutes after the initial delay, rain was coming down so hard that the umpires called it.
A's (Dan Straily 6-7)
at Detroit (Doug Fister 11-6), 4:05 p.m. CSNCA