DETROIT -- The A's first two games of their final 10-game road trip to Detroit, New York and Texas didn't go quite as planned.
They were dominated by the Tigers, being outscored by 14 runs. They had lost control of the first American League Wild Card spot -- although they comfortably remained in second. And they were on the verge of being swept before heading to Yankee Stadium for the first time this year with three rookies scheduled to pitch.
But all of the momentum they lost from those first two grueling games in Motown was regained Thursday afternoon, as the A's offense erupted to thrash the Tigers, 12-4, at Comerica Park.
"We've been able to come up big when we needed to, and today was right along those lines," said manager Bob Melvin, as his team moved into a tie with Baltimore for the top AL Wild Card spot and within four games of AL West-leading Texas.
The 12 runs marked their most in a game since Aug. 31, when they scored 20 at home against the Red Sox. It was their most on the road since a day earlier -- Aug. 30 -- scoring 12 in Cleveland.
"It's nice to come out and have that offensive explosion," starting pitcher Tommy Milone said. "It's nothing new. It's there. We were just off the first two games."
They certainly were. The A's weren't able to capitalize Tuesday when Max Scherzer got injured after two innings and handed the ball off to the Tigers' bullpen. And despite five hits off Justin Verlander, they were unable to cash in a meaningful run Wednesday.
But in the finale, they got to Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers' bullpen. It was a four-run sixth inning and a six-run ninth that accounted for most of the damage.
"After losing a couple in a row, it was good to see," Melvin said. "Once we got a couple of runs on the board, the at-bats got better and better, and the add-on runs were great."
Facing Sanchez, the A's entered the sixth trailing by one run, while being held to three hits. But a pair of defensive mishaps by the Tigers opened the door.
Brandon Moss smoked a double that hopped against the right-field wall. Tigers outfielder Avisail Garcia fired the ball in, but no cutoff man was in the area. It allowed Yoenis Cespedes to score the game-tying run.
Sanchez elected to intentionally walk Seth Smith -- who had homered on an 85-mph changeup in the fifth inning -- and Josh Donaldson made the right-hander pay with a go-ahead base hit.
A line drive by George Kottaras to straightaway center field curved away from Austin Jackson in the sun, and the ball rolled to the deepest part of the park, scoring two more.
"It took a left turn on me," Jackson said. "It had kind of a knuckleball spin. It wasn't where I thought it was going to be, and it started drifting. ... I don't know if I've ever had a ball hit to me that's done anything like that.
It wasn't an error, but the play helped turn the A's one-run deficit to a three-run lead.
"We're not typically going to score one run here or two runs there or one here. We're more of a big inning type of team," Smith said. "We rely a lot on our pitchers to kind of hold the team at bay. And more often than not for us, that's what happens."
For the better part of the game, the left-hander Milone did that. It wasn't his longest or best outing -- he went 4 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits and three walks -- but he limited the Tigers' damage to three runs.
"Games like that, you just try to keep the team in the ballgame, and I feel like I was able to do that," Milone said. "Even though I wasn't able to go deep into the game, not having my best stuff, just keeping the team in the game was the most important thing."
The offense did the rest.
A nailbiter entering the top of the ninth inning transformed into a blowout behind four hits and three walks. The inning started and ended with Kottaras, as the A's batted around.
With the bases loaded, Cespedes hit a sacrifice fly off Octavio Dotel for the second out. However, the A's kept the pressure on as they reloaded them and lefty Drew Smyly walked in a run.
A few pitches later, Smith hit a 92-mph fastball to right field for a bases-clearing double. He finished 3-for-4 with a double, home run, four RBIs and scored his third run when Donaldson drove him home in for the A's 12th run.
The A's and Orioles are tied for the AL Wild Card, but both own a four-game lead over the next closest contender. However, Oakland isn't losing focus because of the lead.
"I'm not even thinking about a cushion," Melvin said. "All we're doing is trying to play for today, and I'm glad we won today because we didn't get swept. Today was big for us."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.