Athletics 7, Indians 6

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CLEVELAND (AP)—It’s a rite of spring, like the flowers blooming, the grass growing and school ending. Every year, right around this time, the same thing happens to the Oakland Athletics.

They start to win.

“This has been a trend for the A’s,” said first baseman Dan Johnson, in his second season with Oakland. “Hopefully we can keep it going in June and pick it up the rest of the way after that.”

Johnson drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the eighth after Eric Chavez hit another clutch two-run homer, rallying the Athletics to a 7-6 win over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.

Down 6-4 going into the eighth, the A’s, a major league-best 76-38 in June since 2002, tied it on Chavez’s shot off Scott Sauerbeck.

The left-hander, who got the final out in the seventh after replacing Indians starter Jake Westbrook, gave up a leadoff single to Nick Swisher before Chavez hit his 13th homer—and 10th on the road.

Of Chavez’s last 17 RBIs since May 16, 11 have either tied the game or put the A’s ahead.

“That was a big pick-me-up,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said.

Not for Sauerbeck.

“Put the blame on me for that one,” he said. “I lost the game. We need to start getting it together before it’s too late.”

Rafael Betancourt (0-1) replaced Sauerbeck and struck out Frank Thomas, but Cleveland third baseman Aaron Boone booted Bobby Crosby’s grounder. Crosby, given the green light to go from Macha, then stole second, and scored one out later on Johnson’s base hit.

Barry Zito (6-3) stayed around long enough to win his third straight start. The left-hander gave up six runs and a season-high 10 hits in seven innings. Kiko Calero worked the eighth and Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save.

“I don’t think he (Barry) even realized he got the win,” said Macha, who visited Zito with two outs in the seventh to make sure the lefty could get Eduardo Perez.

“I thought I was coming out,” said Zito, who nearly bolted off the mound. “I was seeing red there for a minute. When you can get away with a bad outing and the team winning, that’s a good thing.”

Thomas hit a three-run homer—the 462nd of his career—and Mark Kotsay connected for the A’s, who are 4-1 in June.

Oakland outfielder Milton Bradley, activated from the 15-day disabled list, arrived late in the game but didn’t see any action. The combustible Bradley is back in Cleveland for the first time since the Indians traded him two years ago.

Following the game, Bradley was asked if he had a reaction to being back in Jacobs Field.

“No, it’s best to keep my mouth shut,” he said before walking away.

Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore hit solo homers for the Indians.

Westbrook shook off a leadoff homer on his second pitch to Kotsay and was in position to win his fourth straight start over Oakland before Sauerbeck blew it.

“It’s very frustrating,” Sauerbeck said. “It’s very hard when you’re six outs away.”

With his sinker sinking perfectly, Westbrook allowed four runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. The right-hander’s only bad inning was the third when Thomas’ homer gave the Athletics a 4-2 lead.

Otherwise, Westbrook did what he almost always does—kept Cleveland in it.

Hafner, batting third for the first time this season, tied it at 4 in the sixth with his 16th homer—a 427-foot drive to center.

Zito missed the strike zone on his first two pitches before grooving the third to Hafner, who struck out looking in his previous at-bat against the left-hander.

Victor Martinez and Eduardo Perez followed with singles, but Zito struck out Jhonny Peralta, in a 1-for-23 slide, and retired Casey Blake on a fly to right that moved up Martinez.

Ronnie Belliard then pulled a grounder down the line that tipped off Chavez’s glove at third, scoring Martinez to make it 5-4.

The Indians picked up what looked to be an insurance run in the seventh on Martinez’s RBI single.

In the third, Marco Scutaro singled leading off and Westbrook got two outs before walking Chavez. Thomas followed with a drive into the lower deck in right, tying him with Jose Canseco for 26th place on the career homers list.

Sizemore’s 11th homer in the fifth brought the Indians within 4-3.


The Indians lost for the first time in 26 games when leading after seven innings. … Peralta, dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the order, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … Thomas’ homer also gave him 1,498 RBIs, pushing him past Gary Sheffield into 44th place on the career list. Next up: Mickey Mantle at 1,509. … OF John Drennan, the Indians’ sandwich-round selection—No. 33 overall—in last year’s draft, homered off Roger Clemens in the first inning of the Rocket’s minor league start against the Lake County Captains. … Kotsay has led off a game with a homer eight times.

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