CLEVELAND -- The Indians' lineup experienced a power outage over the past week, making the potential need for offensive help via trade a little more more glaring. On Saturday, Cleveland turned things around for at least one night, launching four home runs in a 6-3 win over the A's at Progressive Field.
Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Abraham Almonte and Mike Napoli each cleared the fence for the American League Central-leading Indians, who had just one homer in their previous six games. Right-hander Josh Tomlin was the beneficiary, cruising to his 11th win after logging seven solid innings, in which he struck out seven and allowed two runs.
"They've been strong all year," Tomlin said of the Tribe offense. "If you go on a home-run [drought] like that, it's not because they are trying to hit home runs. It's just running into guys that are pretty good. They just keep plugging away, doing their work and next thing you know, it breaks out like that."
Napoli now leads the Indians with 23 home runs. With the victory, Cleveland remains 4 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers in the division.
Billy Butler belted a towering home run for Oakland, but his shot off Tomlin -- one followed by a dramatic bat flip -- caused tempers to flare momentarily in the fourth. After Butler's homer knotted the score, A's starter Dillon Overton was unable to keep the Tribe in check. In 3 1/3 innings, Overton allowed five runs, including three in Cleveland's four-run fourth.
"I think it got under some people's skin," Tomlin said. "I don't think that's the determining factor of getting amped up for it. I think it might have lit a fire a little bit. I just think they kept plugging away, taking good at-bats. Next thing you know, they put up four runs and gave us a cushion. They have responded like that all year."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Powering up: After Butler's blast pulled the game into a 2-2 tie in the top of the fourth, Cleveland answered with some power of its own. Almonte led off the home half of the inning with a 442-foot shot (per Statcast™) to the bleacher seats in left, Kipnis later added an RBI double to the wall in left-center and Napoli capped off the outpouring with a 402-foot liner (according to Statcast™) out to dead center for a two-run blast. The four-run push quickly knocked Oakland behind, 6-2.
"We saw what he could do last year when he got on a little bit of a roll," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Almonte. "And the role he's been in has been [with] inconsistent playing time, which hasn't helped him. But, you could see he had a little extra in his step tonight, just because he was starting to feel better."
Tensions mount: Butler was seen jawing with Indians catcher Chris Gimenez during his fourth-inning at-bat, taking issue with Gimenez "asking for a little bit too much" in terms of the strike zone, he said. After home-plate umpire Tripp Gibson calmed matters, Butler sent the next pitch from Tomlin into the left-field stands for a Statcast-estimated 442-foot home run, his fourth of the season. Butler responded with a pronounced bat flip, much to the chagrin of Gimenez, who barked in his direction, leading Gibson to issue a warning to both sides. Butler was loudly showered with boos during his final two at-bats.
"It's just tempers flaring," Butler said. "That's this game. We're competitive. I had an issue with him, he took a little bit of issue with me, we got it out of the way." More >
Trading blows: Tomlin labored some in the first, allowing a walk and two hits, including an RBI single to Danny Valencia. Cleveland's offense -- as it did with its fourth-inning flurry -- wasted little time in answering the A's, though. Two batters into the bottom of the first, Kipnis drilled a 2-0 pitch from Overton high down the right-field line, where it carried out for a solo shot that knotted the score at 1.
"Kip started the game off pretty nice. It was a bomb," Napoli said. "Stuff like that, it definitely sparks you. It doesn't mean we're all going to start hitting home runs, but we had a good night. Offensively, I think we've been holding our own all year. It's about riding those waves and trying to get out of those slumps, and just minimize it. It was a nice win for us tonight."
Growing pains: Overton has been highly susceptible to the home run, yielding three of them Saturday for a total of eight in his first four starts across 18 1/3 innings. In that span, the rookie has offered up a combined 34 hits, 10 of which were recorded by an Indians club that consistently hit him hard. Overton's ongoing struggles could lead to another trip back to Triple-A Nashville -- or not, if the A's opt to keep him in the rotation should they deal lefty veteran Rich Hill.
"My command wasn't near as good as it has been in the past tonight, and at a level like this, they definitely make you pay for it," said Overton, who has limited Triple-A opponents to three home runs in 103 2/3 innings this year. "That's really all that that was, was missing location. I could tell a little bit in the bullpen I wasn't as crisp as I was when I was up here a couple weeks ago. I could tell I was just a little off. Obviously it went into the game."
"I kind of took offense to the whole situation. I felt like there was a little bit of showmanship. I don't know if you guys noticed, but I was in the playoffs last year and had a little bit of showmanship happen to me, so I'm a little bit giddy about those types of situations. Yeah, like I said, competitive. Give [Butler] credit. He hit a home run. Good pitch. He hit a good pitch out." --Gimenez, who was behind the plate for Texas when Toronto slugger Jose Bautista flipped his bat after a home run in the American League Division Series
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Kipnis' home run represented the 2,000th home run by an Indians batter since Progressive Field opened its doors in 1994. The blast also marked the second baseman's 17th of the year, matching his single-season career high from 2013.
A's catcher Bruce Maxwell notched his first Major League hit with a single to open the fifth, but was called out at second trying to stretch it into a double. Almonte was credited with an assist for his throw from right field. The A's challenged the call, but it stood following a review of the play.
WHAT'S NEXT A's: The A's close out the three-game series at Progressive Field with right-hander Sonny Gray (5-9, 5.43 ERA) on the mound in Sunday's 10:10 a.m. PT finale. Gray is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in four career starts against Cleveland.
Indians: Right-hander Corey Kluber (9-8, 3.44 ERA) will take the mound for the Tribe, who seek a three-game sweep Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET. Kluber has struck out eight in three consecutive starts, allowing four runs in 22 innings during that span. He is 0-4 with a 3.80 ERA in five games (four starts) against Oakland in his career.