"This is frustrating," Indians third baseman Jason Donald said. "It's not enjoyable losing ballgames like this, especially when you feel like you have chances to win it. It just seems like it keeps piling on right now."
It was one month ago that Cleveland (55-73) began its rapid descent in the American League Central standings. First came an 11-game losing streak. Later, a nine-game skid. Somewhere between, the Tribe enjoyed two wins in a row, something the team has achieved just twice in the past 46 games.
That is how a team can go from 3 1/2 games out of first place -- with its playoff hopes alive and optimism spreading from the clubhouse to the bleacher seats -- to 17 games back in a matter of one calendar month. Monday's loss was the 11th in the past 12 games and the 24th in the past 29 for the reeling Indians.
"When I got up here, it was in the middle of the bad stuff," said lefty Chris Seddon, who was called up from Triple-A on Aug. 5, in the midst of the 11-game losing streak. "I definitely think that we have the guys who can make the timely hitting and the pitching that can keep us in games.
"I think it's just a matter of a couple knocks going our way, a couple of quick innings, and we'll get back to winning."
It is a situation that has left the Tribe searching for any positives.
Well, Monday night's silver lining was Seddon, who pitched admirably in relief of Indians starter Roberto Hernandez. The sinkerballer exited with one out in the third inning due to a sprained right ankle and is considered day to day. Indians manager Manny Acta said the injury is not considered serious at this point.
Following Hernandez's departure, Seddon, with his 4 2/3 shutout innings, and rookie Cody Allen did well in holding Oakland at bay.
"The guys threw the ball well," Acta said. "But we were just overmatched by their pitching today."
Specifically, the Indians were overmatched by Anderson.
The lefty was perfect through the first 13 hitters he faced before yielding an infield single to Cleveland center fielder Michael Brantley, who appeared to be out upon viewing slow-motion replays. The chopper was fielded by first baseman Chris Carter and flipped just in time to second baseman Cliff Pennington at the bag, but first-base umpire Jerry Meals deemed Brantley safe.
"There hadn't been a runner on to that point," Anderson said. "But there were four people at the bag and a cloud of dust. Too many people, too many bodies, but it would've been interesting to see how it played out had I not given up a hit or a walk after that.
"But I can't really dwell on that too much now. I was happy with how we played. I was able to get out of some jams there at the end."
Brent Lillibridge rendered the controversy moot with a no-doubt double in the sixth inning.
Anderson (2-0) turned in seven stellar innings, limiting the Indians to only a pair of hits. He issued two walks and ended with five strikeouts against an offense that has sputtered of late. Over the past eight games, Cleveland's lineup has hit just .197 with a .107 (6-for-56) showing with runners in scoring position and just 11 runs scored overall.
"We had our chances," Donald said. "We just weren't able to come through. It's frustrating."
It did not help that the Indians drew an announced crowd of 13,018, marking the smallest showing since May 17. The stadium's quiet atmosphere was a glaring contrast to this past weekend, when fans poured in from New York (helping create an average of over 29,000 tickets sold) to take in the three-game set against the Yankees.
The A's (70-57) collected the only run necessary in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Seth Smith that brought Stephen Drew across the plate. Insurance was added against Hernandez in the second, when Josh Reddick drilled a solo home run to right field, marking his 26th shot of the season.
In the third inning, after Hernandez left with one out and runners on second and third base, Carter delivered an RBI single off Seddon that pushed the Indians behind, 3-0. Making his home debut, Hernandez (0-3) was hung with the loss after being charged with the three runs on four hits in only 2 1/3 innings.
Acta searched for the positives.
"Hernandez started and he was pounding the strike zone," he said. "We like that."
Cleveland will continue to search for the win column.
"Hopefully," Donald said, "we can break out really quick and finish this last month on a high note."