Indians 5, Athletics 2

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CLEVELAND (AP)—C.C. Sabathia’s pager was inundated all day with text messages from trash-talking friends back in California. They were telling him that he was going to lose to the Oakland Athletics again.

He sent them a nasty reply.

Sabathia joined Boston’s Josh Beckett as the majors’ only 11-game winners and finally beat his hometown team again, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 victory over the Athletics on Monday night.

Sabathia (11-2) allowed nine hits in his second complete game this month to improve to 2-5 in 12 career starts against the A’s, the team he pulled for as a kid growing up in Vallejo, Calif.

The left-hander had been 0-4 vs. Oakland since last beating the A’s on July 30, 2003, a losing streak that a few buddies wouldn’t let him forget.

“Oh, God, I got so many text messages,” Sabathia said with a smile. “And they were all from A’s fans saying, ‘You’re a good pitcher, but the A’s are going to beat you.’ That’s the kind of texts I get from my friends.

“They’ll be getting some tonight.”

Sabathia struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter, continuing an impressive run of great control and command of his pitches. In his last 14 starts, Sabathia has walked only 11 and not more than one in any outing. He has 89 strikeouts over the same span.

Sabathia is the first Indians left-hander to win 11 games before June 30 since Sam McDowell in 1970.

“He’s become a true No. 1 pitcher,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said, “and one of the best in the game.”

Ryan Garko drove in two runs with a fourth-inning double off Chad Gaudin (6-3), and Travis Hafner homered for the first time in nearly a month for Cleveland, just 11-12 in June.

With Sabathia clinging to a one-run lead, the Indians added two in the eighth on RBI singles by Jhonny Peralta and pinch-hitter Jason Michaels.

Oakland has lost a season-high four straight, and seven of nine overall.

Following the game, A’s outfielder Nick Swisher wrote: “Team meeting, 5 p.m.” on the message board in the clubhouse. Oakland has scored just five runs during its losing streak.

“The other team is just scoring more runs than we do, so we lose,” first baseman Dan Johnson said. “It’s that simple. We’ve been running into some good pitching.”

The A’s threatened in the ninth, getting runners to second and third with two outs before Sabathia, who leads the majors in innings pitched, struck out Mark Kotsay looking on his 111th pitch to end his 14th career complete game.

Sabathia, probably a lock to make his third All-Star team, gave up two runs in the second but then shut down the A’s on two hits over the next seven. He got Oakland to bounce into three double plays, and at one point he retired 13 in a row—five on strikeouts.

In June, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA and he has pitched nine innings three times.

“C.C. was outstanding,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “Whatever he did was pretty impressive. In the ninth, he made the pitches when he had to. He threw a lot of zeros up there.”

Garko’s two-run double over Kotsay’s head in center put the Indians ahead 3-2 in the fourth.

With two outs, Hafner singled to center and Peralta walked before Garko, batting .118 since June 1, delivered in the clutch for the Indians, who scored just six runs while dropping two of three in Washington last weekend.

Gaudin gave up three runs and six hits over six innings.

Hafner’s first homer in 68 at-bats since May 31 brought the Indians to 2-1 in the second.

Showing signs of emerging from a prolonged slump, Hafner drove a 1-2 pitch to right for his 11th homer. The Indians haven’t been getting their customary production from the hard-hitting designated hitter, who insists he has not been distracted by having contract talks broken off between his agent and the club.

Hafner, who can become a free agent after next season, has kept his sense of humor during one of the longest hitting funks of his career.

“I figured sooner or later I’d hit a home run,” he said.

Notes

The win was the Indians’ 600th at Jacobs Field, their home since 1994. … Despite a strong first three months and a 25-11 record at home, Cleveland is not drawing well. The Indians entered Monday’s game averaging just 23,778 fans per home game, the third-worst attendance in the AL. Only 17,737 attended the series opener. … Oakland RHP Rich Harden, building up arm strength after being on the DL for nine weeks, struck out two in a hitless inning of relief. … Hafner came in batting only .213 (40-for-188) since going 4-for-4 on April 23. … Kotsay has always feasted on Indians pitching. He’s batting .415 (39-for-94) in his career against Cleveland.

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