Indians 4, Athletics 3, 12 innings
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—From countless clutch homers to a 20-game winning streak, the Oakland Athletics have specialized in late-season, late-inning heroics over the past four years.
They seemed ready to work that magic again on Friday night—until Casey Blake and Cleveland’s bullpen stole the show.
Blake’s 12th-inning homer sent the A’s to their fifth straight loss, 4-3 to the surging Indians. Oakland’s lead in the AL West dwindled to one game over the Anaheim Angels despite plenty of chances to snap the skid that’s threatening the A’s run for a fifth straight postseason trip.
Coco Crisp tied it with a home run in the eighth inning off Mark Mulder. The Indians got 6 2-3 scoreless innings from seven relievers, and Ryan Ludwick also homered in Cleveland’s sixth victory over Oakland in seven meetings this season.
“We came out of a real good pitching duel with a win,” Crisp said. “It was just a couple of mistakes either way.”
In years past, the A’s rarely made those mistakes in September. Nick Swisher’s spectacular diving catch in the 11th seemed to herald another memorable win, but the A’s couldn’t do it.
After Oakland couldn’t score with the bases loaded and one out in the 11th, Blake—hitless in his first five at-bats—hit his 26th homer off rookie Justin Duchscherer (5-6), Oakland’s fifth of sixth relievers.
Rick White (5-5) escaped the 11th-inning jam for Cleveland, and Bob Wickman finished for his eighth save in nine chances. The Indians have won the first three games of their five-game West Coast road trip.
“Our bullpen was outstanding,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “They came up huge for us. We definitely made it tough on ourselves, but they didn’t quit on us.”
Mulder blew a chance at his 18th victory for the struggling A’s, who are just one game up on the Angels after Anaheim’s 7-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. The A’s losing streak is their longest since late April, when they lost six straight.
Mulder blamed himself for the lazy fastball that Crisp hit for the tying homer.
“Those are things you can’t let happen,” he said. “All these games are important. We need to come out (Saturday) and get a win.”
All told, Oakland stranded six runners after the eighth inning.
Mulder had been hit hard in most of his previous nine starts, with his ERA rising from 3.21 to 3.90. He was mostly in control against Cleveland, but two homers, four walks and more mediocre run support hurt his flagging bid for the Cy Young award.
Elarton, the former Houston star released by Colorado in May, didn’t allow an Oakland runner to reach second base in the first five innings. Eric Byrnes’ two singles were the A’s only hits until the sixth.
Octavio Dotel pitched into a bases-loaded jam with one out in the ninth, but the Oakland closer escaped. The A’s then got two runners on against Rafael Betancourt, but pinch-hitter Billy McMillon struck out.
“As we become a better team, hopefully we’ll be able to finish off a few games before they get into extra innings,” said Wedge, whose team is 11-12 in extra-inning games.
McMillon is 0-for-17 with two walks as a pinch-hitter since May 5. … Betancourt had three strikeouts in the ninth. … It was the first homer since last fall for Ludwick, who spent most of this season in the minors following knee surgery.