DETROIT — Gio Gonzalez looked toward left field and put his glove over his mouth, the look of someone muttering something the television censors wouldn't approve of.

A rocket off the bat of the Detroit Tigers' Gary Sheffield landed deep in the seats for a second-inning grand slam. By then it was overkill.

It was apparent from the get-go Monday that Gonzalez wasn't long for this game. He handed the ball to A's manager Bob Geren with two out in the second inning, pulled long before the Tigers would polish off a 14-8 victory at Comerica Park.

Geren could take heart that his team didn't mail it in after falling behind 12-3 by the fourth inning. What must cause him some uneasiness is the progression — or lack of it to this point — from Gonzalez, one of the crown jewels in the A's stable of pitching prospects.

In his previous start against Kansas City, Gonzalez felt he made strides with a change in his mechanics. Then came Monday's line: 12/3 innings, five hits, nine runs (eight earned), two walks, three homers.

Gonzalez was living dangerously with Detroit's vaunted lineup — running deep in counts and being forced to come over the plate or getting ahead of hitters but not putting them away. And when he tried to establish the inside corner, he hit two batters.

"Gio just wasn't getting his fastball where he wanted it to," Geren said. "He knew he had to pitch in, then he hit a couple batters. He just didn't command his fastball well enough on either side of the plate."


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And before the young left-hander can use his impressive curveball and developing changeup to his best advantage, his fastball has to come first.

In his past 17 innings, Gonzalez (1-4) has walked 18 and allowed 24 earned runs, pushing his ERA to 9.32 in seven major league starts.

"It's a difficult thing," said Gonzalez, 10 days shy of his 23rd birthday. "Frustration does take over sometimes."

The A's took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Rajai Davis singled and scored when Daric Barton lined a triple into the right-field corner. Kurt Suzuki's infield single would score Barton.

But Magglio Ordonez's two-run homer and Sheffield's solo shot put the Tigers ahead 3-2 in their first at-bat.

They batted around in a six-run second, highlighted by Sheffield's 13th career grand slam.

The loss, combined with Boston's victory over Tampa Bay, officially eliminated the A's from postseason contention in their 143rd game. It's the earliest the A's have been eliminated since 1997.

But the realization that they weren't going to the playoffs sunk in long ago for the A's, which leaves the development of players such as Gonzalez as crucial as the season's final two-plus weeks unfold.

Some impressive credentials followed Gonzalez when he was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Aug. 6. He led all of the minor leagues with 185 strikeouts last season and garnered the most attention when the A's obtained him in a three-player deal from the Chicago White Sox for Nick Swisher.

"Any young player that comes up is going to have ups and downs," Geren said. "He's going to have a couple of bad streaks. It's how you recover and rebound that's key."

Asked if Gonzalez could be skipped for his next start, Geren replied: "I'd say no."

The Tigers hit five homers total. The last came from Mike Hessman, who connected off Jeff Gray in the eighth. Gray also walked one and struck out two in his big league debut.

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglic@bayareanewsgroup.com.