The Cleveland Indians have entered into unfamiliar territory, and it was not just their once-a-year visit to one of the worst stadiums in use in Major League Baseball today in the Oakland Coliseum. The team’s losing streak hit four straight as Trevor Bauer was only able to retire two batters in a four-run first inning by the A’s as Oakland went on to complete the sweep over Cleveland with a 7-3 win.
The return of manager Terry Francona to the Indians dugout on Friday has not sparked new energy from the Tribe as they dropped their third straight to start the second half and fourth in a row overall in their longest losing skid since losing six straight from July 23-28, 2015.
The ugly effort on Sunday led to an unfortunate sweep by the Athletics, who entered the second half with the second-worst record in the American League. Now, the Indians will head across the bay to face one of the worst teams in the National League, the San Francisco Giants, but the Tribe has struggled all season long against senior circuit opposition during interleague play.
Bauer was on the mound for Cleveland, but was unable to escape the first. He needed 43 pitches to retire two outs against the seven batters that he would face in his brief appearance Sunday.
Matt Joyce started the home half of the first with a single. Marcus Semien drew a walk after falling behind the count, 1-2. Bauer bounced back to strike out All-Star Yonder Alonso in a lengthy eight-pitch battle for the first out. Khris Davis walked to load the bases, but Bauer was able to strike out Jed Lowrie on just three pitches, swinging away for the second out. Nearly out of the jam and ahead in the count, 0-2, Ryon Healy instead singled to right to plate a pair and give Oakland an early 2-0 lead. A walk by Matt Chapman reloaded the bases for Jaycob Brugman, who singled on the seventh pitch of his AB to score both Davis and Healy to make it 4-0. Dan Otero relieved with runners on the corners and got Josh Phegley to fly to right to stop the bleeding.
“I had no feel for anything I was throwing, no feel for how my body was moving, where the ball was going,” Bauer shared after matching the second-shortest start of his big league career. “When things started going south, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of it.”
The Indians could not find their way against Oakland starter Sean Manaea the first time through the order. The southpaw had allowed just two runs in his career to the Indians coming in (both on solo homers) and six hits in total, and he looked to be in peak form early on.
The A’s added to their lead in the third as Lowrie homered to right off of Otero to make it a 5-0 game.
Cleveland fared better against Manaea as the lineup flipped over in the fourth. Brandon Guyer, hitting in the leadoff spot, drew a walk and moved to third on a double high off of the top of the wall in center by Francisco Lindor. Michael Brantley pushed both runners across with a single to center to make it a 5-2 game. The rally would stop there, however, as Edwin Encarnacion flew out and Jose Ramirez struck out swinging. Brantley stole second on a ball in the dirt before a walk by Carlos Santana, but the pair would remain there as Roberto Perez struck out meekly swinging to end the inning.
The Indians’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position all series long was again an issue on Sunday. Lindor doubled to start the sixth against Manaea, but he would be stranded at third on a pop out and two foul outs. Santana started the seventh the same way and the Indians would strand a pair after he stole third with two outs and Giovanny Urshela walked, but Guyer was cut down swinging. With a new pitcher on the mound in left-hander Daniel Coulombe in the eighth, the results were the same as Lindor doubled for his fourth hit of the afternoon (half of Cleveland’s total for the ball game) before line outs by Brantley and Encarnacion and a grounder by Ramirez.
Cody Allen came on for some work in the bottom of the eighth and coughed up a couple more runs to put the game further out of reach. After getting Healy to foul out, Chapman doubled to center, narrowly missing his third home run in two days. Brugman moved him to third on a grounder and after a walk by Phegley and a wild pitch advanced the pair into scoring position, a single by Joyce scored both to make it 7-2.
Right-hander Simon Castro made his A’ debut for Oakland in the ninth, striking out Santana and pinch-hitter Bradley Zimmer before giving up a mammoth clout to Abraham Almonte that Statcast recorded at a distance of 505 feet, the longest home run recorded by the number crunchers. Urshela would single through the right side before Tyler Naquin was cut down swinging to end the game and secure the sweep for the A’s.
The Indians fell to 47-43 with the loss, but maintained their one and a half game lead in the AL Central over Minnesota after the Twins lost to Houston, 5-3. The A’s are now 42-50 on the season, but trail the Astros by 20 games in the AL West.
Manaea worked seven innings in defeating the Indians to improve to 8-5 on the year. He allowed two runs on five hits, walked three, and struck out eight while needing 115 pitches to finish his night.
The A’s will stay put at home as they welcome the Tampa Bay Rays in for three games beginning Monday night. The Indians will hop across the bay to take on the Giants, with right-hander Josh Tomlin (5-9, 5.90 ERA) on the mound to face another left-hander in Matt Moore (3-9, 6.04)
First pitch from AT&T Park in San Francisco is scheduled for 10:15 PM ET on Monday night.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images