The Indians have beaten the A’s four straight times at home this season— with each one coming in their final at-bat.
“It’s kind of a broken record here,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “That’s four in a row.”
Cleveland had been 0-30 when it trailed going into the ninth before the comeback, which ended with Merloni surrounded by a dancing mob of Indians.
“My first walk-off hit ever,” Merloni said. “It’s kind of a ritual here to get beat up when you do it. I’ve got to go ice down.”
Cleveland’s latest dramatic win over Oakland gave reliever Bobby Howry (1-0), who pitched the ninth, his first win since Aug. 21, 2002, for the Chicago White Sox.
Oakland, which has dropped four in a row, took a 4-2 lead into the ninth and things seemed secure when Dotel struck out pinch-hitter Coco Crisp.
But Matt Lawton drew a walk, Vizquel followed with a single and Hafner’s RBI double brought the Indians within 4-3.
“I wasn’t going to wait,” Merloni said. “He throws 95 to 97 mph. The first one was there, so I swung.”
Dotel didn’t want to risk walking in a run, and realized he grooved his pitch to Merloni.
“I was trying to get ahead,” he said. “I didn’t want to throw a breaking pitch.”
The Indians hadn’t won when trailing after eight since Aug. 31 last season, and had lost seven of 10 coming in.
“We had been sleepwalking,” Merloni said. “This could give us a burst of energy.”
Before Oakland’s bullpen blew it, Saarloos was in line for his second win after not allowing an earned run on two hits.
Chavez was back in Oakland’s lineup after missing more than five weeks with a broken right hand. The third baseman went 2-for-3 with an RBI, walked twice and scored a run.
He also made a dazzling defensive play in the eighth inning when the Indians cut it to 4-2.
With one out, the three-time Gold Glove winner made diving a stop to take an RBI single away from Martinez, throwing out the Indians catcher while sitting in the infield dirt.
As he crossed first base, Martinez grabbed his head with both hands in disbelief.
Maybe the loss caused Chavez to minimize his sensational glove work.
“I just dove, turned around and threw him out,” he said.
Mark Kotsay had two RBIs as Oakland’s weekend stay started the same way their previous one ended at the Jake. In May, the Indians took three in a row from the A’s, winning each time in their final at-bat.
Chavez was back at third and batting third for the first time since June 1 when he got hit on the right hand by Chicago’s Damaso Marte. Chavez didn’t need long to make an impact, hitting an RBI single in the first to make it 1-0.
The A’s added two runs in the second off starter Jake Westbrook on Kotsay’s two-out, two-run single.
Chavez made his presence felt again in the third, doubling and scoring onScott Hatteberg’s sacrifice fly.
Indians OF Mark Little made an impression—literally—during the game. Little left imprints from his hands and knees in the padding of the center-field wall after nearly catching Hatteberg’s drive in the sixth. An inning later, Little got by hit a pitch. … The A’s went 19-14 while Chavez was out. … Gerut is in an 0-for-18 slump. … Saturday’s matchup features two All-Stars—C.C. Sabathia (5-4) vs. Mark Mulder (11-2), who has won a career-high nine straight decisions. … Vizquel is batting .438 (21-for-48) during a 12-game hitting streak. … Kotsay is batting .550 (11-for-20) in hiscareer vs. Cleveland.