Down 7-0, the A's came back to win 8-7 in 10 innings when Jack Hannahan hit a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for a single to score Mark Ellis from first base.
Hannahan, who was acquired from the Tigers on Aug. 14 in a minor-league deal, fouled off two pitches attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt before getting the hit sign and delivering the game-winner.
"It always feels good to get a game-winning hit against your old team," said Hannahan, who also started the comeback with a two-run double in the fifth inning. "In that situation I've got to get the bunt down. I've done it a hundred times."
His hit was ruled a single because he never stepped on second base. He made a turn to join the celebration just short of the base.
The A's tied it in the bottom of the ninth on rookie Kurt Suzuki's two-run home run to straightaway center off Tigers closer Todd Jones. Suzuki said it was the first homer he had hit to center field during his professional career.
"That was great coming off Todd Jones, one of the best closers and a guy who has been around a long time," Suzuki said. "It was a fastball, middle away. I was looking for a fastball over the plate. I just hoped it would carry over the center fielder's head. I ran out of the box, thought it was a double."
After Suzuki tied it, the A's loaded the bases with none out, but Jones induced a 6-2-3 double play grounder from Mike Piazza and got Dan Johnson to fly out to center.
But the A's didn't let that bother them an inning later.
"We showed some fight," said Ellis, who reached base when he was hit by a pitch thrown by Tigers rookie Yorman Bazardo. "Any time you get the leadoff man on in a situation like that you've got a good chance."
Suzuki also had a two-run single in the seventh that brought the A's within 7-4.
"We're still trying to win games against teams in the hunt," Suzuki said. "If we have to play as spoilers, we'll play as spoilers."
A's starting pitcher Dallas Braden, who had a 17-strikeout game his last start at Triple-A Sacramento, gave up nine hits and six runs in 4ª innings against a Detroit lineup minus Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez.
"I don't know if I can put a finger on it," Braden said. "It's frustrating because I know I can do the job. It's just a matter of being consistent throughout the game."
The A's trailed 7-0 going to the bottom of the fifth and were looking for their first base runner.
Johnson broke up Nate Robertson's perfect game with a one-out single in the fifth. Ellis followed with a single and both scored on Hannahan's double.
The A's had a chance to pull closer in the sixth, but Johnson just missed a two-out three-run homer when his drive down the right-field line landed just foul.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in Fernando Rodney to relieve Robertson to start the seventh and Granderson to play left field, leaving Cameron Maybin in center where Granderson had started 119 games this season. Maybin, a highly regarded prospect who started the season in Single-A and played just six games in Double-A before being called up, was making his first major-league start in center.
Rodney walked Ellis and gave up a single to Hannahan. Marco Scutaro lifted a high pop fly to center that Maybin lost in the sun. So the A's had the bases loaded with none out.
Suzuki hit a 3-1 pitch up the middle for a two-run single. Then after Shannon Stewart flied out to center, Nick Swisher hit the first pitch he saw for a run-scoring single to right. The Tigers got out of the inning when Tim Byrdak struck out Jack Cust and Joel Zumaya got Piazza to fly out to Maybin.
Contact Glenn Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org.