Indians 4, Athletics 3
CLEVELAND (AP)—Jason Michaels can find a lot of ways to win a ballgame. Playing long ball isn’t usually one of them.
“I’m not a home run hitter,” he said.
The Indians trailed 3-1 when Michaels hit his sixth home run. He connected off Ron Flores (0-2), sending a drive into the bleachers in left-center field that extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
“I was looking for something in the middle of the plate,” he said. “I was trying to hit the ball up the middle.”
Ironically, an ill-advised throw by Michaels from left field helped Oakland’s ninth-inning threat against closer Joe Borowski.
“I’m not happy going 1-3 here,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
Dan Johnson homered, doubled and singled twice for Oakland, which held an early 3-0 lead. The Athletics fell to 1-6 on their nine-game road trip.
“It’s tough to win a four-game series, especially against a starting staff like that,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “I’m pleased with the way we’ve played this series.”
Johnson singled to start the ninth. One out later, Jason Kendall singled to left and Michaels threw late to third base, allowing Kendall to easily take second. After the play, Michaels stood in the outfield shaking his head.
Asked when he realized his mistake, Michaels said, “When the ball was about an inch from my hand. I know a lot better than that.”
Paul Byrd (7-3) allowed three runs in seven innings in winning for the first time since May 30. The right-hander gave up 10 hits, struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
“It’s been too long,” he said of the gap between wins.
Byrd, who allowed six hits in the first two innings, hadn’t pitched seven innings since May 20, a stretch of seven starts.
“I don’t know if you guys noticed, but I got through the seventh inning,” he said. “It might be the sign of the end of an age.”
A’s starter Joe Blanton took a 3-1 lead into the seventh. Kelly Shoppach led off with a single and Josh Barfield hit a line drive that fell in front of right fielder Nick Swisher. Unsure if the ball would drop, Shoppach got a late break off first and was forced out at second.
Following Casey Blake’s pinch-hit single, Flores relieved Blanton. Grady Sizemore hit a long drive to right-center that Swisher caught—he held onto the ball despite falling to the ground and hitting the wall.
The good defense went for naught when Michaels homered.
“It was supposed to be a fastball inside,” Flores said. “I feel bad for Joe.”
The A’s bullpen, which is without injured setup men Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero and closer Huston Street, has been struggling. Alan Embree gave up five runs in the ninth inning in Tuesday night’s 8-5 loss.
“It’s no secret our bullpen has been wearing it,” Flores said. “Hopefully, it’s just a rough patch.”
Johnson led off the second with his seventh home run.
Following Johnson’s home run, Bobby Crosby doubled and Kotsay singled.
Sizemore hit an RBI double in the fifth.
Byrd has walked two batters in his last 71 2-3 innings, both intentional. His last unintentional walk was on April 26. … The Indians placed RHP Roberto Hernandez on waivers Thursday for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. He was designated for assignment on June 20. The 42-year-old Hernandez went 3-1 with 6.23 ERA in 28 games. … Oakland RHP Rich Harden threw bullpen sessions Wednesday and Thursday. He’s scheduled to throw two innings in relief Friday or Saturday in New York. … The A’s have lost 12 of their last 16.