For eight innings it was a tight pitching duel between Game 1 aces Catfish Hunter and Mickey Lolich. The only runs across were a Dick McAuliffe homer for the Tigers in the third and a Mike Epstein homer for the A’s — the only home run Oakland would hit in the series — in the seventh.
In the sixth, A’s second baseman Dick Green was hurt on a hard slide by Norm Cash trying to break up a double play. A’s manager Dick Williams had to move catcher Gene Tenace to second due to no other healthy players available. Tenace had last played second base in high school, and this inexperience would prove costly later.
The Tigers threatened in both the eighth and ninth innings. In the eighth, McAuliffe walked and was sacrificed to second by Al Kaline. Mickey Stanley reached on an infield hit, sending McAuliffe to third. Rollie Fingers relieved Hunter and Billy Martin called for a suicide squeeze that failed and McAuliffe was thrown out trying to score. Fingers then struck out Bill Freehan for the final out. In the ninth, with two outs, Tony Taylor doubled and Vida Blue intentionally walked Aurelio Rodríguez. Blue then retired pinch-hitter Willie Horton on a fly to center.
In the tenth, the A’s took a two-run lead when Gonzalo Marquez continued his pinch-hitting heroics with a one-out single. Matty Alou doubled home Marquez and went to third on the throw home. Ted Kubiak then hit a bloop single to right with Alou scoring for a 3–1 lead. After Joe Rudi was retired, Reggie Jackson reached on a throwing error by Rodriguez with Kubiak reaching third. However, no more A’s runs scored as Sal Bando made the last out of the inning.
The Tigers rallied in the bottom of the tenth, starting with singles by McAuliffe and Kaline. A’s reliever Joe Horlen wild-pitched the runners to second and third and then walked Gates Brown to load the bases with no outs. Bill Freehan then grounded an apparent double play ball to third, but the inexperienced Tenace at second dropped Sal Bando’s throw. McAuliffe scored and everybody was safe. Dave Hamilton then relieved Horlen and promptly walked Norm Cash to tie the game, and then gave up a walk-off single to Jim Northrup, a ball hit over right fielder Matty Alou’s head (the outfield was drawn in), scoring Brown with the winning run.