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DET@OAK: Avila lifts a sacrifice fly to left

DETROIT -- After alternating wins and losses for two weeks, the Tigers finally have a streak going. It's not on the side they wanted.

Their offense, meanwhile, still seems to be spinning its wheels.

Brandon McCarthy's 10-strikeout, four-hit performance made Detroit's powerful lineup look helpless against his change of speeds. Saturday's 3-1 loss to the A's made the Tigers (16-17) a sub-.500 team for the first time since last May 29.

There's little doubt that the former has tied into the latter. And if the Tigers are going to get a different streak, they're going to have to hit.

"We're showing some signs, but not very many, to be honest with you," manager Jim Leyland said. "And I think probably the more you talk about it, the more guys press a little bit."

It doesn't appear to be going away as a topic of discussion, until the Tigers break out of it.

When Delmon Young doubled, advanced on a Brian Fuentes wild pitch and scored on an Alex Avila sacrifice fly, it was the kind of late-inning run the Tigers had been lacking lately. But its importance was relative.

It didn't rally the Tigers back from the deficit McCarthy had put them in with seven scoreless innings. It simply stretched their streak of avoiding shutouts to 101 games. They didn't even get the tying run at the plate.

"We got shut out, basically," Leyland said. "I mean, we picked up a run in the ninth. If Alex gets on, you've got the tying run at the plate. But, I mean, we're supposed to be a team that's adding runs on in the eighth and ninth inning, not trying to get the first one."

It isn't really a prolonged skid, because the Tigers had been alternating wins and losses for 13 games before Saturday. They've lost two straight for the first time since April 26-27. The Tigers haven't won back-to-back games since they swept the Royals in mid-April.

Detroit had hovered between .500 and one-game over for all of May, getting a different result every day. The one relative constant had been their offensive struggles in their defeats. They had scored two runs or less in their previous five losses until a pair of late-inning runs on Friday night broke the string.

They still haven't been shut out since Edwin Jackson tossed a complete-game blanking of his former teammates last July 16, a span of 101 games.

Leyland and several hitters credited McCarthy and his deceptive mix on Saturday. No pitcher had put up 10 strikeouts without a walk in a game against the Tigers since Casey Fossum did it on July 31, 2006.

The last pitcher to do it without allowing a run was Roger Clemens in his famous 20-strikeout game on Sept. 18, 1996, according to research on baseball-reference.com.

"I felt pretty good," Brennan Boesch said, "But I saw some guys that it looked like he was keeping them off-balance pretty well. He's a lot like Doug [Fister]. He throws a sinker, cutter and overhand curveball. They're really long, lanky pitchers and similar styles out there, competing against each other."

Leyland's point was that he's far from the first pitcher the Tigers have had to credit lately.

"He did a great job. He pitched a real good game," Leyland said. "And like I said, you can't be just crediting the other pitcher every night. You have to hit good pitchers up here, and we just didn't do it today. Boesch had a couple hits, [Don] Kelly threw in one and we got a couple there late.

"He pitched very well, but big league pitchers pitch well. Today we just didn't muster much."

Boesch had two singles. Kelly and Andy Dirks had a couple bloopers. That was it against McCarthy, who held the Tigers' power-hitting trio of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young to 0-for-9 with six strikeouts, half of them by Young.

"[He was] hitting his spots, I guess," Fielder said. "He didn't make too many mistakes."

Fister (0-1) tried to keep pace as best he could in his second start back from the disabled list, recovering from a first-inning run on three singles to take a 1-0 game through the sixth inning. Two add-on runs against Phil Coke in the seventh gave the A's some insurance.

"I struggled through the first couple [innings], couldn't find a release point, had a little rough timing," Fister said. "It finally clicked, but I've just got some work to do before my next outing."

Fister has tossed 13 innings of two-run ball since coming back from the disabled list. He has received two runs of support from Detroit's offense.

All the while, the shadows of Oakland Coliseum grew bigger over the field, with the setting of the California sun. They seemed fitting for an offense with the weight of expectations upon them, though at least a couple Tigers insist they aren't pressing.

"We just try to go out there and see what happens," Fielder said. "It's always easy to say you're pressing when it doesn't happen, but you're just trying to get it done. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"That's just what people call it when you're not getting the job done. That's all."

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