By Jane Lee and August Fagerstrom
MLB.com |@JaneMLB |
CLEVELAND -- The Indians broke open a 1-1 deadlock with a two-out, bases-loaded rally in the sixth inning to ensure a 5-1 victory in the series opener against Oakland at Progressive Field on Friday Night.
The Athletics struck for a first-inning run on a sac fly by Billy Butler that scored leadoff man Billy Burns, but were held in check by Tribe starter Danny Salazar (8-4, 3.77 ERA) over the next eight innings.
Salazar struck out eight and walked one over 8 2/3 innings in front of a crowd of 28,539 -- the largest non-Opening Day attendance of the year in Cleveland. Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (6-5, 3.38 ERA) entered the game with a scoreless streak of 16 innings, which he extended by 3 1/3 before a Yan Gomes double tied things up in the fourth. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings, striking out six.
The Indians have now won four in a row and nine of their last 12. They're within two games of .500 for the first time since June 7. The Athletics have lost three in a row and nine of their last 14 after winning nine of their previous 11.
"Our starting staff is what carries teams, and I think it even makes the offense a little bit more confident just to get those guys a couple of runs, and get the pitchers late into the game," Gomes said. "Even our bullpen right now is doing an amazing job."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Going the distance: Salazar had failed to complete the fifth inning in three of his previous four starts before nearly going the distance for what would have been just the second time of his career. After a 19-pitch first, it looked like Salazar might be due for another quick outing, but settled down to retire the next 13 A's batters and allow just four more baserunners the rest of the way.
"The last game, in Pittsburgh, he was very good and he had the inning that just snowballed," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Tonight it seemed as the game progressed his changeup got better. He reached back when he needed to." More >
Walk this way: One out away from stranding a base runner and escaping the sixth inning unscathed, Graveman offered up a base hit to Giovanny Urshela in advance of a walk to Michael Bourn, leaving the bases loaded for Drew Pomeranz. The lefty reliever proceeded to walk each of his first two batters, giving the Indians a lead they would extend on Michael Brantley's two-run single. Pomeranz had not allowed a run in his previous nine innings of work.
"That's our best lefty," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's the guy we've been using for the big situations, normally it's late. But with the workload of [Fernando] Abad and [Eric] O'Flaherty the last two days, he was the guy you want in that situation. It's the first time in a while he hasn't come through for us." More >
A little help from my friends: After a season's worth of struggles with the bases loaded, and a wasted opportunity the inning prior, the Indians finally cashed in during a four-run sixth inning. After three consecutive walks plated two, Brantley did something the Indians had done just nine times in 67 bases-loaded at-bats this season: get a hit. His single scored two and gave the Indians a comfortable 5-1 advantage.
"The walks were huge, not giving in and laying off some breaking balls and then Brantley, paying attention like he always does and knowing he's throwing breaking balls and getting on base," Francona said. "That was a good inning for us. We did some good things because we had left some guys on base and we got patient, we made him work and we took advantage of some balls."
Broken bats: A day after managing three hits against the Yankees, the A's came to Cleveland and mustered only five -- all of them coming in different innings -- and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. That's eight hits total in their last 18 innings, including just six in their last 16 frames. As a team, they're hitting .229 in their past 14 games, nine of them resulting in a loss.
"All around this league is quality pitching, and we just haven't been able to put together those innings," Josh Phegley said. "We'll get hits, but it'll be one or two an inning. We're not having those innings where we're stringing them together and getting guys on. We're kind of sporadically putting hits together instead of coming up with big hits."
Athletics: Right-hander Chris Bassitt will be promoted from Triple-A Nashville on Saturday to pitch in place of Jesse Hahn (right forearm strain) in the second game of a three-game set against the Indians at Progressive Field, beginning at 3:35 p.m. PT/6:35 p.m. ET. Bassitt recently made two spot starts for Sonny Gray, allowing three runs in a combined 10 2/3 innings. He has never faced Cleveland in his career.
Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (10-7, 4.17 ERA) gets the start for the Indians, looking to return to the form that allowed him to come within one pitch of a no-hitter two starts ago. His last time out, he lasted just four innings and allowed five runs. Carrasco has never faced Oakland as a starter before.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB and listen to her podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.