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DET@OAK: Hunter hits first home run for Tigers

OAKLAND -- Tailgating since 8:30 a.m., a lot of A's fans showed up at O.co Coliseum to watch the pitcher who was the reason the fleece blanket given away Saturday said "American League West Division Champions," and not potentially "AL Champions."

On the mound, Justin Verlander tried not to think about the past or the A's nine-game winning streak.

But Verlander said the 35,067 fans who sold out the game "reminded me with their boos."

After defeating the A's twice in the AL Division Series last season, including a shutout in the fifth and deciding game at the Coliseum, Verlander and his team's three home runs helped the Tigers defeat the A's, 7-3, on Saturday in the place where he is the stubborn nemesis, the adversary who throws strikes even in the face of high-pitch-count adversity.

Verlander, 8-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 14 career starts against Oakland, was victorious yet again.

"He did what he normally does," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He did throw a lot of behind-in-the-count offspeed pitches, which he can do. That's the mark of a good pitcher. I wouldn't say he had his best stuff."

Facing a starting lineup without three of its top hitters -- Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes (both sustained injuries Friday), and Jed Lowrie (day off) -- Verlander (2-1) permitted just one run, three hits and three walks while striking out six. Despite helping Detroit improve to 6-5 on the season, he felt he could have done better.

"Obviously I would have liked to go longer than six [innings]," Verlander said. "Not executing on some pitches caused me to throw more than I had to."

Verlander got into some long counts and threw 111 pitches (75 strikes), but he faced three batters in three of his frames and never faced more than five in an inning.

Detroit used the long ball for its first five runs: a 468-foot moon shot by Torii Hunter in the third to tie it at 1, a go-ahead solo shot by Prince Fielder in the fourth and a three-run homer three batters later from Jhonny Peralta.

Fielder reached base in all four of his plate appearances, including two walks, and extended his hitting streak to eight games with 17 RBIs in the stretch.

"He's locked in pretty good," manager Jim Leyland said. "Probably as good as I've seen him."

A day after getting only two pinch-hit at-bats, Hunter fouled off four pitches and drove an 0-2 slider to the higher left-field stands in the third for his first homer of the year -- and first as a Tiger.

"That was awesome," Fielder said of Hunter's blast. "Great swing."

The Tigers really got to A's starter Brett Anderson (1-2) in the fourth, when it took him 26 pitches to stumble out of the inning. It included Fielder's fourth home run this season, which flew over the center-field wall on a 1-1 fastball for a 2-1 lead. On a 2-2 count to Peralta, Anderson threw a ball and lost his balance on his follow through. On the next pitch, Peralta drove a fastball to the left-field stands for a three-run homer and 5-1 lead.

"We got a couple of balls up," Leyland said. "[Anderson is] one of the better pitchers in the game."

The A's lone run off Verlander came with two outs in the second. Derek Norris hit a laser to third and deflected off of Miguel Cabrera's glove into left for an RBI single, giving Oakland a 1-0 lead.

Verlander did not allow a walk until one out in the fourth, when he yielded two in a row. But two strikeouts ended the inning, in which he labored with 31 pitches.

Detroit chased Anderson with two outs in the sixth, when Brayan Pena, filling in for catcher Alex Avila, doubled to right-center. Omar Infante was stealing on the pitch and scored to make it a 6-1 lead. Reliever Pat Neshek entered, and the next batter, Austin Jackson, drove a double to left and plated Pena for a 7-1 lead.

Anderson's line: eight hits, three walks, seven runs allowed and two strikeouts.

Al Alburquerque began the seventh on the mound for the Tigers and allowed a two-out, two-run double to Chris Young that cut the lead to 7-3. Phil Coke entered and got Josh Reddick to ground out.

Melvin was ejected in the eighth inning by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher for arguing balls and strikes after Brandon Moss struck out looking.

Sunday's rubber match will be the last time the Tigers play the A's in Oakland in the regular season.

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