"I don't know if it's deflating," A's slugger Jack Cust said, "but it's definitely difficult when they come at you like that. That's the difference in the way they're built and the way we're built."
They can be maddening when they're not hitting, but when the Tigers are on, they can put up runs in a hurry in a way many other teams can't.
"A lot of guys put good swings on the ball tonight," manager Jim Leyland said, "and they flew out of the ballpark."
The Tigers' third straight win was seemingly decided by the middle innings before Oakland rallied to make a contest out of it. After struggling for much of the past month against left-handed starters, Tigers hitters pounded A's rookie southpaw Gio Gonzalez for three home runs out of the five hits he allowed in 1 2/3 innings, yielding eight earned runs and another unearned tally.
Yet it was a pair of hit batsmen, a two-out walk and an error that helped provide Gonzalez with his downfall and the Tigers with their opportunity to put up so many runs on the scoreboard.
"You have to make him throw strikes," Sheffield said. "We saw film on him. We had the scouting report, and it seemed like he was throwing a lot of pitches away and not getting his breaking ball over."
After Magglio Ordonez's two-run homer and Sheffield's solo shot -- both on full counts -- powered the three-run opening inning, Gonzalez hit Hessman with a 1-2 pitch leading off the second inning, putting him halfway toward history.
After Brandon Inge tripled in Hessman, Gonzalez recovered for back-to-back groundouts to keep Inge at third. Gonzalez was nearly out of the inning if he could find a way to retire Ordonez, who instead drew a five-pitch walk. Two pitches later, Gonzalez threw a fastball in that hit Cabrera above his left hip as he checked his swing, extending the inning again.
Gonzalez (1-4) again fell behind on Sheffield, who turned on a 3-1 fastball and sent it out on a line toward the left-field seats. Sheffield's 13th career grand slam was also the 250,000th home run hit in Major League history, according to baseball-reference.com.
"That's the type of home runs he's hit pretty much his whole career -- line drives, not real towering shots," Leyland said.
The A's were still looking for that third out when Hessman came back up. This time, it was lefty reliever Josh Outman who hit him on an 0-2 pitch.
Outman essentially plunked Hessman into the history books. He became just the fifth player in modern Major League history to be hit by two pitches in the same inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson was the last big leaguer -- and the only other American Leaguer -- to do it when Rangers starter Mike Morgan hit him twice in the opening inning on May 23, 1999. The Rockies' Andres Galarraga (1996), the Mets' Frank Thomas (1962) and the Reds' Willard Schmidt (1959) were the National Leaguers.
"The first one hurt," Hessman admitted. "The first one got me good [on the left side]."
Justin Verlander, who caught the stat on television in the clubhouse, burst down the stairs to the dugout to tell him news.
When asked if it was a record worth congratulating, Hessman said, "I don't know. I didn't really want it."
The combined damage provided a cushion for Tigers starter Zach Miner, who recovered from a two-run opening inning to seemingly settle down through four. Five ground-ball singles, however, knocked him out two outs shy of qualifying for a victory, having given up eight runs in the process to raise his ERA by more than half a run to 4.29.
None of Oakland's six fifth-inning hits went into the outfield in the air, let alone go for extra bases. However, it assembled a five-run rally that actually brought the potential tying run to the plate before Casey Fossum (3-1) retired Cust to finally end the threat on his way to 2 1/3 hitless innings.
"The key to the game, without question, was Casey Fossum," Leyland said.
Every member of the Tigers' starting lineup scored a run except for leadoff man Curtis Granderson. Ordonez scored four runs, including a two-run homer in the opening inning, and walked twice. But it was the home runs hit -- and the home run hitters who were hit -- that marked this one.