The second half has not started the way that the Cleveland Indians would have scripted.
One night after being limited to four hits in a 5-0 shutout by the Oakland Athletics, Corey Kluber allowed a game-tying solo blast in the eighth inning and Bryan Shaw gave up the game-winning two-run shot to Khris Davis in the bottom of the ninth as the A’s celebrated their seventh walk-off win in a 5-3 victory on Saturday night.
The Indians (47-42) have now opened the second half by losing games started by the top two pitchers in their rotation.
Both teams had relatively quiet innings in the first third of the night until slumping rookie Matt Chapman came to the plate for his first at bat against Kluber. It would be a memorable one for the young right-handed hitting third baseman, who entered in a 3-for-36 slump since rejoining the A’s on July 3 after a stint on the disabled list, as he homered to center to put the A’s up 1-0 with his first Major League home run.
The Indians took the lead in the next half inning and did so quickly. Michael Brantley worked a walk against rookie righty Paul Blackburn and Edwin Encarnacion hit a laser out to left for a two-run home run to put the Tribe on top for the first time, 2-1.
With the exception of the homer by Chapman, Kluber was dealing. He gave up just his second base runner through four innings with a two-out single by Davis to left, but he came back to record his third strikeout of the inning and sixth through four frames to leave the A’s outfielder stranded at first. Oakland would strike out twice more the next inning and would waste a two-out double by Chapman.
Cleveland added to its lead in the sixth. Encarnacion walked on four straight to start the inning and went to third on a single by Jose Ramirez. He would score on a groundout by Carlos Santana to push the lead to 3-1, but Yan Gomes and Tyler Naquin could not get Ramirez in, which would prove costly as the game went on.
Kluber struck out two more in the sixth and another pair in the seventh, but the decision by manager Terry Francona to bring him back out to start the eighth inning would prove a costly one. Despite having allowed just four hits while striking out 12 through his first seven innings, Kluber went to battle with the rookie Chapman and Chapman won again as he sent the first pitch of the bottom of the eighth deep to straightaway center for his third hit, third extra base hit, and second homer of the night, tying the game at three.
Andrew Miller would come on in relief one out later and got out of the inning unscathed, but he walked the leadoff man Yonder Alonso in the bottom of the ninth after the Indians were retired in order for the third straight inning by the Oakland bullpen. Shaw came on in relief of Miller and quickly fell behind 3-0 to Davis. He threw a pair of strikes before Davis fouled off a pitch. With the count still full, Davis sent a liner to the gap in right-center that cleared the fence for the walk-off win.
The Indians’ woes with runners in scoring position continued on Saturday as the club combined to go 0-for-7 and left five men on base in the ball game.
Cleveland will look to avoid the sweep and a four-game losing skid on Sunday afternoon in the 4:05 PM ET start. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (7-7, 5.24 ERA) will take the mound for the Tribe against tough left-hander Sean Manaea (7-5, 3.76). Bauer has faced the A’s four times in his career with a 1-1 record and a 3.16 ERA. Manaea has pitched extremely well in two previous starts against the Tribe, putting up nearly identical marks in both efforts. He faced the Indians earlier this season, allowing just one run on three hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.
Photo: AP Photo/Ben Margot