"I won't lie," Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus said. "My heart stopped when I saw him take off, considering he was the go-ahead run."
Davis figured he had the element of surprise in his favor.
"That's my specialty," said the former Athletics speedster. "I thought it was possible after the first throw back from the catcher. I took the circumstances into consideration. No one was expecting it."
Closer Joe Nathan, who was sitting in the right field bullpen, was certainly caught off guard.
"I think the whole stadium was surprised," he said. "I know I missed it. I had my head down. He made it look so easy, coming off the rack after sitting seven or eight innings. That's one of his biggest assests."
Davis, who leads the team with 16 steals, knew the risks. In the end, he made it without a throw.
"He has that elite speed," Tigers' starting pitcher Max Scherzer said. "If you give him an inch, he takes 10 miles. That kind of speed changes the game. He picks up on the little things. There's no way to defend that."
Davis entered the game as a pinch-runner for J.D. Martinez, who drew a one-out walk from Fernando Abad.
"The plan was to get into scoring position," Davis said. "Fortunately for us, they threw one away. It's more of a calculation I have internally. You have to be safe. If you get thrown out, it's heavy."
A's manager Bob Melvin called it a gutsy move.
"You always have to be ready for something like that with a guy that's that fast," Melvin said. "He timed it perfectly. As soon as [catcher Derek Norris] let go of the ball he took off. I haven't seen the replay yet, if he had a chance to get it and throw him out, but it's a big chance he took and it paid off."
Davis raced to second on a passed ball before swiping third. Pinch-hitter Nick Castellanos, at the plate when Davis took off, also walked, setting up Jackson's hustle play.
"I thought I had a good chance from where I saw he fielded it," Jackson said. "He made a good play to get the force. I just put my head down and ran. You do whatever to try and get that win."
Miguel Cabrera hit a home run and drove in two runs and Torii Hunter also homered as the Tigers ended their three-game losing streak. It was just their second victory in nine games.
"We wanted to make sure and hold the lead," Nathan said. "The way we have gone into a little funk, it was especially important. We had a good day as a bullpen. As bad as it has been, you wouldn't know it by being around the clubhouse. We all knew it's a time to keep coming to the ballpark and keep working."
Al Alburquerque (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh to get credit for the victory. Joba Chamberlain worked the eighth and Nathan got the final three outs for his 12th save.
Scherzer lasted six innings, allowing five runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out four.
Scherzer, who was saved from his second loss when Hunter hit a solo home run in the seventh to tie the game, has allowed 12 runs on 20 hits over his past two games, a span of 13 innings.
"I left some pitches up and they took advantage of it," Scherzer said. "We know we haven't played our best baseball and it's always good to get a win on the road."
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner allowed 12 runs combined through his first nine starts (59 innings).
The Tigers jumped on A's starter Sonny Gray, scoring twice in the first and adding single runs in the third and fourth.
Cabrera singled home a run in the first and hit his eighth home run of the season in the third.
Martinez doubled home a run in the first and Alex Avila doubled home a run in the fourth.
Scherzer could not make the lead stand, coughing up a pair of runs in the second and three in the fourth, including John Jaso's go-ahead two-run home run. He was also charged with a balk in the inning, allowing a run to score.
"Alex [Avila] gave me the sign to pick third," Scherzer said. "It was just a miscommunication."
Thanks to Davis' daring, the Tigers were able to laugh it off.