DETROIT -- Oakland Athletics Bob Geren was expecting to rely heavily on his bullpen Saturday night.
After all, starting pitcher Brett Anderson was on a strict pitch count in his first start since April 25, and no one was sure how he would do in his return from elbow and forearm problems.
Anderson surprised everyone -- even himself -- as he led Oakland to a 6-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.
He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out four in a 70-pitch outing.
"That's about as good as I could have possibly hoped for after a month off," Anderson said. "That's probably the most efficient game I've ever pitched in the major leagues."
Instead of needing several relievers, Geren needed only two. Brad Ziegler and Craig Breslow pitched the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits.
"That was very, very impressive by Brett," Geren said. "Considering the time off, for him to be that sharp and that efficient is amazing. He was only going to get 65-75 pitches, and there was no way I thought he could get us almost six innings. That's more than we could have asked."
Rick Porcello (4-5) allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"I was a little off - I really didn't have a feel for my pitches," Porcello said. "I didn't have great stuff, but I was able to keep us in the game."
The Tigers have only scored four runs in the first two games of the series, all coming off Miguel Cabrera's three homers on Friday night.
"Anderson is one of the best pitchers in the league, and [Ben] Sheets looks like he's back, so we've seen two nasty pitchers in the last two days," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We didn't do much with them, and that happens when you aren't swinging good."
It was scoreless until Mark Ellis led off the fifth with a solo homer into the Oakland bullpen - his first of the season. Oakland added a second run later in the inning when Rajai Davis reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Ryan Sweeney's two-out triple.
"We left a lot of guys on against these guys yesterday, and no one was scoring early tonight, so it felt great to hit that one," said Ellis, who has seven hits in his last three games. "I struggled when I first came off the DL [on May 21], but I think I've got things back now."
Detroit's only hit in the first five innings came on Johnny Damon's bloop single to left in the first.
The Tigers' only threat came in the sixth when Austin Jackson singled with two out and took third on Damon's double. That brought Ziegler out of the Oakland bullpen to relieve Anderson, and Magglio Ordonez lined out on his second pitch.
"Brad did a great job for us," Geren said. "He got out of that jam, and then he gave up 2 1/3 innings on 20 pitches. That's pretty efficient, too."
Davis tripled with one out in the seventh, but Tigers reliever Brad Thomas got out of the jam by getting Sweeney to ground into a double play.
Tigers reliever Brad Thomas loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on a single and two walks. Ellis greeted Eddie Bonine with a three-run double and later scored on Cliff Pennington's sacrifice fly.
Slumping Tigers catcher Gerald Laird was robbed of a leadoff homer in the third when left fielder Gabe Gross reached well over the eight-foot fence to catch a fly ball.
"That's probably the greatest play I've ever had anyone make behind me in a game," Anderson said. "I was so sure it was gone that I had turned back around -- I thought it was a homer until they threw the ball back in from the outfield. I had to watch the replay."
Laird is hitting .154 this season, and recently changed his jersey number in an attempt to get his offense going.
"That's part of the game -- I thought I got it pretty good, and he made a great play on it," Laird said. "I've just got to keep battling. I'm hitting the ball better -- I just need to find some holes."
Oakland's Kevin Kouzmanoff flirted with a homer in the next inning, but Ordonez in right field made a stumbling catch as he banged into the 365-foot sign in right-center field.
The Tigers announced after the game that Dontrelle Willis will be designated for assignment in order to make room for Sunday's starting pitcher, Max Scherzer. ... The Athletics optioned reliever Cedric Bowers to Triple-A Sacramento to make room on the active roster for Anderson. ... Anderson has allowed one run over 11 innings in his last two starts against Detroit. ... Detroit's four runs in the first two games of the series all came on Miguel Cabrera's three homers in Friday's opener.