Athletics 4, Indians 3
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Milton Bradley has hardly had the kind of offensive year he hoped for in his first season with Oakland.
On Wednesday night, he came up with two clutch hits that helped the Athletics move a game closer to their goal of winning the AL West.
“It feels good,” said Bradley, who is batting .278 in a season that has included two stints on the disabled list. “I felt like I had been treading water. I hadn’t been swinging the bat the way I know I can.”
Esteban Loaiza (11-8) pitched 7 2-3 strong innings to win for the seventh time in nine starts, relying on his offense to rally after falling behind in the first. The first-place A’s stayed 6 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles after the Angels won 3-0 at Kansas City.
The division rivals play seven times in the last 10 games of the season, starting Friday with a series in Oakland. They meet again in Anaheim for the final four games. Oakland’s magic number to clinch its first division title since 2003 is five.
“We’re aware of it,” Bradley said. “We know we control our own fate— just go out and win ballgames.”
The A’s were counting on Loaiza to go deep into the game because neither Dan Haren nor Kirk Saarloos could do so the previous two nights and the A’s will need their bullpen in Thursday’s series finale, when Rich Harden makes his first start since June 4 because of an elbow injury.
“We needed him to get out there, and he was tremendous,” manager Ken Macha said.
Bradley homered leading off the sixth to pull the A’s to 2-1, his 11th. His single against Juan Lara made it 2-2 in the seventh, and Jason Davis relieved to face Thomas, who lined a two-run double to center and drew chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the crowd of 25,131.
The A’s would like to sign the 38-year-old Thomas to a contract extension before this season ends, and the slugger is hoping for a two-year deal.
“I’ve shown people I’m back,” he said, referring to his revival with the A’s after two injury-plagued years with the Chicago White Sox.
Loaiza left to a standing ovation after Casey Blake lined out to third for the second out in the eighth, waving his cap to the crowd. The right-hander gave up three runs—two earned—and five hits. He said he is feeling the same way he did during a 21-win season in 2003 for the White Sox.
“Since the beginning of the season my teammates always end up scoring runs after the fifth inning,” Loaiza said. “I go out and try to throw strikes and put zeros up and you never know what will happen.”
Fausto Carmona didn’t allow a baserunner past second until Bradley’s home run. The right-hander, making just his sixth major league start, allowed one run and six hits in six innings. Fernando Cabrera (3-3) was tagged for two runs and two hits in the seventh.
“We got a couple of big knocks early, but Loaiza was good,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s been good for a while now. He made pitches and didn’t leave a lot over the middle of the plate.”
Loaiza is 6-0 with a 2.03 ERA over his last six starts in Oakland after going 1-3 in his first six starts at the Coliseum.
A’s 3B Eric Chavez sat out with a strained left hamstring, an injury he’s been dealing with for much of the season. An MRI exam Wednesday showed some torn tissue, trainer Larry Davis said. Chavez hopes a day or two off will be enough and that he will be ready to play Friday in the series opener against the Angels. “If I’m playing on one leg I want to go out there on Friday,” he said. Antonio Perez started in Chavez’s place. … Bradley stole his ninth base in the third. … The Indians are 54-31 when scoring first, but have dropped their last two against Oakland after taking an early lead. … Jay Payton singled in the fourth for the A’s to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, his third hitting streak of 10 or more games this season.
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