Zito (12-10) gave up four hits, three walks and struck out six.
"I was kind of lethargic mentally," he said. "But that works to my advantage. It helps me not freak out because you're not attentive to every little hit, or what a fan is saying. It's better just to be in a little bit of a daze."
In the first, Zito got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam with a double play.
"That was probably the crossroads of the whole game," Oakland manager Ken Macha said.
After benefiting from the double play, Zito didn't allow a runner to reach second until the sixth inning. He started in Rich Harden's place, and somebody else will have to take Harden's scheduled start on Saturday because of his shoulder injury.
Oakland won its second straight -- after dropping seven of nine -- to remain in a tie with the New York Yankees for the AL wild-card lead.
Are the A's -- who were 39-14 in June and July -- back on a roll?
"I'll be curious to see myself because on Tuesday, that wasn't the same club," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. "They got it together the last couple of days. They're playing very well, but for whatever reason, when (Eric) Chavez came back yesterday it seemed to give them a little lift."
Chavez was back in the lineup Wednesday after missing a game to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple's first child.
Until a 9-2 victory Wednesday, the A's had not scored more than five runs in 13 straight games, dating to an 11-0 win Aug. 7 at Kansas City.
"If I could figure out this team, I'd be a genius," Ellis said. "We're all either swinging the bat well at the same time, or not."
Zito suffered from Oakland's recent lack of run production. He was 0-2 in his previous three starts, despite a 3.26 ERA during that stretch.
He was able to pitch with an early cushion Thursday.
Oakland scored two in the first, one in the second, two in the third, three in the fourth and one in the fifth to build a huge lead Zito didn't even need because he was pitching so well after his shaky start.
Detroit's Mike Maroth (11-12), who had won three straight decisions, had his worst outing of the year, lasting just 3 2/3 innings. He gave up a season-high eight runs -- matching a career high -- and 10 hits.
"I was leaving a lot of balls over the plate," Maroth said. "I pretty much did what you don't want to do as a pitcher. It seemed like I was getting behind hitters, and when I did get ahead, I wasn't able to put them away."
Kendall started Oakland's barrage with a leadoff single in the first and scored on Chavez's single, and Kielty's RBI single made it 2-0. Ellis hit a solo homer in the second.
Kielty drove in another run with a groundout, then Johnson made it 5-0 in the third with an RBI single.
Kendall's RBI double, Mark Kotsay's RBI single and Bobby Crosby's RBI groundout gave the A's an 8-0 lead in the fourth. Johnson's 434-foot shot to right gave them a nine-run lead in the fifth.
Chris Shelton's RBI double off Jay Witasick in the eighth made it 9-1. Payton hit a two-run homer in the ninth.
|Oakland's Barry Zito improves to 12-10 by tossing six shutout innings. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Jason Kendall, C||5||2||3||1||0||0||3||.265|
|Mark Kotsay, CF||5||1||2||1||0||1||1||.271|
|Bobby Crosby, SS||5||1||1||1||0||1||1||.280|
|Eric Chavez, 3B||3||1||1||1||1||0||3||.283|
|a- Keith Ginter, PH-3B||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.167|
|Bobby Kielty, DH||2||0||1||2||0||0||0||.267|
|b- Scott Hatteberg, PH-DH||3||1||1||0||0||1||2||.267|
|Dan Johnson, 1B||5||1||2||2||0||2||2||.305|
|Jay Payton, LF||5||1||1||2||0||0||1||.270|
|Nick Swisher, RF||3||1||0||0||1||1||0||.250|
|Mark Ellis, 2B||5||2||3||1||0||1||0||.307|
|a-grounded out for Chavez in the 8th|
|b-grounded out for Kielty in the 4th|
|2B - Jason Kendall (20, Maroth), Mark Kotsay (27, Maroth)|
|HR - Dan Johnson (11, German), Jay Payton (16, Dingman), Mark Ellis (5, Maroth)|
|RBI - Jason Kendall (38), Mark Kotsay (64), Bobby Crosby (34), Eric Chavez (76), Bobby Kielty 2 (50), Dan Johnson 2 (37), Jay Payton 2 (52), Mark Ellis (33)|
|2-OUT RBI - Eric Chavez (22), Bobby Kielty (23), Dan Johnson (9), Mark Ellis (15)|
|SB - Jason Kendall (7, 2nd base off Maroth/V. Wilson)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Crosby-Ellis-Johnson, Johnson|
|E - Keith Ginter (6, Wild throw)|
|Barry Zito (W,12-10)||6||4||0||0||3||6||0||3.49|
|WP - Jay Witasick (3)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Barry Zito 99-61, Justin Duchscherer 19-11, Jay Witasick 25-16|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Barry Zito 5-5, Jay Witasick 1-4|
|Batters Faced - Barry Zito 23, Justin Duchscherer 4, Jay Witasick 8|
|Placido Polanco, 2B||3||0||3||0||0||0||0||.338|
|John McDonald, 2B||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||.295|
|Brandon Inge, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.266|
|Chris Shelton, 1B||4||0||2||1||0||1||2||.319|
|Magglio Ordonez, RF||1||0||0||0||2||0||0||.305|
|Curtis Granderson, LF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.277|
|Dmitri Young, LF||3||0||0||0||0||0||3||.266|
|Nook Logan, CF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.263|
|Craig Monroe, CF-RF||3||0||1||0||1||1||0||.284|
|Carlos Pena, DH||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||.218|
|Omar Infante, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.231|
|Vance Wilson, C||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.181|
|2B - Chris Shelton (16, Witasick)|
|RBI - Chris Shelton (43)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Outfield Assists - Magglio Ordonez 1|
|E - Brandon Inge (20, Misplayed grounder)|
|Mike Maroth (L,11-12)||3.2||10||8||8||0||1||1||4.98|
|HBP - Swisher (by Mike Maroth)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Mike Maroth 84-56, Franklyn German 45-26, Vic Darensbourg 18-10, Chris Spurling 10-8, Craig Dingman 22-14|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mike Maroth 3-7, Franklyn German 4-1, Vic Darensbourg 1-1, Chris Spurling 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Mike Maroth 22, Franklyn German 10, Vic Darensbourg 5, Chris Spurling 3, Craig Dingman 5|
|Attendance - 24440|
|Game Time - 2:44|
|Temperature - 81|
|Umpires - Home - Rick Reed, First Base - Ted Barrett, Second Base - Alfonso Marquez, Third Base - Chris Guccione|