Mulder pitched into the eighth inning of his 14th victory, and the A’s scored five runs in the final two innings of a 6-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.
Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run double in the seventh as the A’s avoided wasting another sterling start from Mulder (14-7). They trailed 2-1 entering the seventh, but Mulder struck out the side to a strong ovation.
Moments later, his teammates scored three runs to take the lead for good in their first home game since the All-Star break.
“The way he’s pitching, if we can just scratch a couple of runs across, we’re going to win a lot of games,” said third baseman Eric Chavez, who had an RBI double. “There’s not much pressure on us to score too many runs, but there’s pressure not to let Mark down.”
Except for two solo homers, Mulder was firmly in control. It was the fifth 10-strikeout game of his career—and his second in a row, following his performance in a 3-0 win over Seattle.
Mulder finished one strikeout shy of his career-high, allowing seven hits and retiring 14 of 15 at one point. He joined Toronto’s Roy Halladay, who has 15 victories, and Baltimore’s Sidney Ponson as the AL’s 14-game winners.
“All of a sudden, I’m Strikeout Guy,” Mulder said. “I don’t know. I threw a lot of good pitches late in the game. That’s what I’m excited about, because I didn’t make many good pitches early.”
Mulder also was four outs shy of what would have been his major league-leading eighth complete game, but Keith Foulke finished up for his 27th save in 31 chances.
“(Mulder) had three good pitches tonight: A heavy sinker, a changeup and a big, slow curve that defies gravity,” Cleveland catcher Tim Laker said. “That pitch killed me. It goes so slow, you wonder how he throws it.”
Terrence Long and Chris Singleton also drove in runs for the A’s, who returned from a tough 12-game road trip at 1 a.m. Oakland won its sixth straight at the Coliseum, where Cleveland has lost five straight.
Despite another weak month from one of the least productive outfields in baseball, the A’s have won seven of nine overall.
Milton Bradley homered for Cleveland before getting ejected in the eighth inning for vociferously arguing a called third strike. Ryan Ludwick also homered for the Indians, who couldn’t hold the late lead.
Brian Anderson (8-8) struck out six and retired 11 straight batters during six strong innings, but he lost for just the second time in nine starts thanks to a rocky seventh.
David McCarty and Chavez singled to start the inning, and Hernandez hit reliever Jason Boyd’s second pitch deep into the right-center gap. Bradley quickly tracked it down, and the throw might have got Chavez at the plate—but it was cut off.
Moments later, Long had a pinch-hit RBI single off Jason Stanford.
“Those extra runs were my fault,” Anderson said. “I left runners on. When you pitch against Mulder, you better not let them score more than two runs.”
In the eighth, the A’s got unearned runs on Chavez’s double and Singleton’s sacrifice fly.
“It hasn’t been easy for us to score much lately, but we kept battling and finally put a couple of hits together,” Mulder said. “That’s why this is such a great win for us.”
Mulder was the first Oakland pitcher with back-to-back 10-strikeout games since Todd Stottlemyre did it Sept. 20 and 26, 1995.
Plate umpire Bruce Froemming called two straight strikes against Bradley in the eighth inning, leading to Mulder’s 11th strikeout. After the final strike, Bradley screamed at Froemming before being led back to the dugout by manager Eric Wedge.
But Bradley turned and threw his bat and helmet in the direction of home plate, drawing an ejection. Bradley repeatedly attempted to escape Wedge’s grasp to charge Froemming, but the manager held on.
“It was ridiculous,” Froemming said. “He got no (support) from his bench. Several people actually said they were sorry about what happened. Eric and the coaches did a great job of getting him off.”
Ludwick hit his fourth major league homer in the second, but Oakland tied it on Miguel Tejada’s sacrifice fly in the third. Bradley hit his ninth homer ofthe season on Mulder’s first pitch of the sixth.
Oakland leads the AL with a 37-16 home record. … Cleveland’s Coco Crisp extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single on Mulder’s first pitch of the night. … Cleveland hitting coach Eddie Murray will miss the series while enjoying his Hall of Fame induction. Bullpen catcher Dave Keller will assume Murray’s duties. “Eddie deserves this,” Wedge said. “It’s part of the respect he’s earned for winning this honor.” … Mulder has pitched atleast seven innings in 17 of his 22 starts this season.