CLEVELAND (AP)—The Cleveland Indians will have a hard time topping this three-game series.
“This is probably the most exciting win of the season,” said Lou Merloni, whose pinch-hit single sparked the winning rally. “To beat a team like Oakland three straight like this is just huge.”
The Indians, whose bullpen has 12 blown of 17 save opportunities, have won four straight after losing a season-high seven in a row.
“That’s baseball and that’s why you play a long season,” Lawton said. “You try not to get too down. We’ve had some frustrating losses, but hung in there.”
Omar Vizquel, whose throwing error helped Oakland score twice in the top of the ninth, had a tying RBI double off Rhodes (1-3) as Cleveland swept the Athletics with two wins in their last at-bat and an eighth-inning rally.
“When you get these heartbreaking losses like this, one after the next, it kind of wears on you,” Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby said.
Merloni singled to open the ninth off Rhodes, who had his second blown save in two days and fourth in 12 chances.
Two outs later, Lawton walked and pinch-runner John McDonald replaced Merloni.
Vizquel then pulled his double to left, scoring McDonald and sending Lawton to third.
“He likes to challenge people, so I was looking fastball,” Vizquel said. “He’s tough, but struggling right now.”
Pitching coach Curt Young visited Rhodes on the mound, but the left-hander bounced a pitch all the way to the backstop and the Indians poured out of the dugout to greet Lawton at home plate.
“I’m mad about it,” said Rhodes, who said he got the signs crossed with catcher Adam Melhuse. “It was supposed to be a cutter, but he thought hard slider.”
Crosby drew a leadoff walk and former Indians minor leaguer Marco Scutaro followed with a bloop single to left over Vizquel. The shortstop threw wildly to third trying to get Crosby, who scored. Scutaro went all the way to third when Jimenez couldn’t track down the ball as it rolled along the warning track behind home plate.
“I was really surprised it got past two players,” Vizquel said. “But it was my mistake for throwing to third. I should have thrown to second because that guy was the go-ahead run.”
Kotsay, who went 7-for-9 in the three-game series, then singled to left.
Before Kotsay delivered, the Athletics were 1-for-10 in the game and 6-for-33 in the series with runners in scoring position.
Cleveland had taken a 2-1 lead in the eighth on an RBI single by Travis Hafner, who went 6-for-7 in the three games.
The blown save by Jimenez was his second of the season and first in two chances since being named the Indians’ closer on Wednesday.
But Indians relievers went 3-0 in the series.
Oakland starter Tim Hudson allowed two runs on 11 hits over eight innings. He is 13-1 with a 1.72 ERA over his last 19 daytime starts since June 2002.
“A great performance by Huddy,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “We’ve got to get three outs in the ninth for him.”
Crosby put Oakland ahead 1-0 with the third of three straight two-out singles in the second inning off Cleveland starter Jason Davis.
Cleveland tied it in the third. Vizquel doubled into the right-field corner, advanced on a groundout and scored on a single by Victor Martinez.
Davis allowed one run and six hits over 6 1-3 innings, walking three andstriking out a season-high five.
Vizquel is 3-for-27 in his career against Rhodes. He singled off him Saturday night in Cleveland’s three-run eighth that won the game 8-6 after Casey Blake’s walkoff homer against Jim Mecir won Friday night’s game 1-0. … Oakland C Damian Miller left with a bruised left elbow after being hit by a pitch from Davis in the fourth. … Indians 1B Ben Broussard snapped an 0-for-27 slump with a single off the glove of diving third baseman Eric Chavezin the seventh.