Runs in five of the first six innings powered the Oakland Athletics to a 7-2 win on Wednesday and a three-game sweep over the host Cleveland Indians from Progressive Field.
For the third time in as many days, an Indians starter struggled with command and for the second time, they were unable to pitch beyond the fifth inning. Jefry Rodriguez didn’t even make it that far, getting the hook after four innings with five runs already on the board and four walks helping pave the way for an A’s victory.
Command eluded Rodriguez from the early going. After a first pitch strike to Marcus Semien to start the game, he fired four straight misses to hand out the unpleasant leadoff walk. Jurickson Profar flied to left, but both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson drew free passes to load the bases. Mark Canha grounded to third, but Jose Ramirez booted what could have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, no outs were recorded and Semien scored with the game’s first run. Robbie Grossman lofted the very next pitch to Leonys Martin in center for a sacrifice fly, giving Oakland a 2-0 lead before Chad Pinder ended the inning with a grounder to third.
Frankie Montas drew the start for Oakland, looking to set a new personal high for wins in a season, all before Memorial Day. He had to dance his way out of the first after giving up a leadoff single off of the wall in right to Francisco Lindor and a one-out double to left by Carlos Santana. He struck out the struggling Jake Bauers swinging before getting Ramirez to fly out to shallow left.
The A’s added another run in the second. After striking out Ramon Laureano in a nine-pitch battle, Nick Hundley caught a four-seamer and drove it over the wall in right for his second home run of the season, giving the A’s a 3-0 advantage. Rodriguez left a runner at third after Semien followed with a single, moved to second on a groundout by Profar, and stole third before Chapman grounded out.
The Indians threatened again in the second, but left two more costly runners on base. With two down against Montas, Martin singled and scooted to third on a double by Kevin Plawecki. With a chance to cut into the early deficit, Lindor lost a nine-pitch battle against Montas, striking out swinging on a slider off the plate to end the inning.
Oakland scored for a third straight inning and could have had more against Rodriguez. Olson doubled over Mike Freeman to start the third and scored one out later on a single to right by Grossman. Pinder reached on an infield single and Grossman moved to third on a liner to center by Laureano for the second out. Hundley walked on five pitches to load the bases, but Rodriguez got Semien to pop up a 2-2 pitch in foul territory that Plawecki handled to end the threat.
Montas retired the side in order before his offense came through again for the four straight frame. Chapman reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Canha made it a 5-0 game with a double to left-center.
Dan Otero took over for Rodriguez in the fifth and finally kept the A’s from scoring, stranding a pair of two-out singles by Hundley and Semien. Meanwhile, the Indians offense continued to strand runners on base in bulk as Lindor’s one-out walk and Kipnis’ single to right to follow were dealt with by Montas by back-to-back strikeouts of Santana and Bauers to leave two more men on base and seven for the game.
Canha added another run to the board in the top of the sixth in Otero’s second inning of relief. He sent a 1-2 offering to right for his seventh homer of the season, extending the Oakland lead to 6-0.
Montas ended his afternoon with a twin-killing after a one-out walk by Freeman. Mercado grounded to short to start a 6-4-3 double play, giving Montas six quality scoreless innings on the rubber.
Tyler Clippard entered for the seventh and had an all-or-nothing type of inning. After striking out Pinder to open the inning, Laureano and Hundley hit back-to-back doubles to make it 7-0. Clippard responded by striking out Semien and Profar swinging.
Yusmeiro Petit pitched a perfect seventh, but the Indians finally got in the runs column in the bottom of the eighth against Fernando Rodney. Santana drew a five-pitch walk to start the inning. Bauers fouled off three pitches, took a changeup low, then killed a two-seamer up in the zone for a 450-foot blast to right-center to make it 7-2. Rodney gave up a single to Ramirez and walked Freeman before exiting, with Lou Trivino cleaning up his mess by retiring the next three in order to strand two more Indians on base.
Joakim Soria handled the ninth after a second inning of scoreless relief from Cleveland’s Tyler Olson. He gave up a leadoff single to Lindor before erasing him on a double play ball. Santana drew another walk, but Bauers grounded to first to end the game.
The A’s improved to 25-25 on the season and 11-15 away from home. They went 6-2 on their three-city road trip, with six straight wins to close the trip to pull back to even for the first time since late April. The Indians fell to 25-23 on the year and are now seven games in back of Minnesota in the American League Central Division. The team scored just nine runs in the three-game series as the A’s took five of six from the Indians over the last two weeks.
“If I had the magic potion, believe me, I’d give it to everybody,” said manager Terry Francona after the game. “The best thing I know is to not drag our heads, to not feel sorry for ourselves, because nobody cares, especially the teams we’re playing.”
Rodriguez fell to 1-4 in his shortest start of the season. He allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts. Early command issues led to unneeded base runners and ran up his pitch count early, forcing the Indians to tap into the bullpen once again. The relief corps of Otero, Clippard, and Olson combined to work five innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out four.
Montas improved to 6-2 on the season with a dominating effort on the mound. He allowed five hits and two walks over six shutout innings while striking out nine batters. He worked out of several jams as the Indians could do nothing with runners in scoring position. The team stranded eleven against Oakland pitching while going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Eight of nine Indians hitters reached base via hit or walk in the game, but despite eight hits and six free passes surrendered, the team could not come through with more than two runs. Lindor reached base four times with two singles and two walks, while Santana got on base three times with a double and two walks of his own. Seven different players had hits, with Freeman going hitless but reaching twice on bases on balls.
The A’s were paced by three RBI from Canha, who went 2-for-5 to continue his hitting tear since being activated from the injured list. Hundley had three hits out of the nine-hole in the lineup, while Semien and Olson each had two hits.
Prior to the game, the Indians ended their partnership with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The former A’s outfielder was designated for assignment to make room for catcher Eric Haase, who was added to the Indians’ 25-man roster as protection for the catcher Plawecki with starter Roberto Perez dealing with concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the catcher’s mask during Tuesday night’s game with Oakland.
The Indians will get right back to work on Thursday night in another tough series as the Tampa Bay Rays come to Cleveland for a four-game weekend set. Adam Plutko will draw the starting nod in the series opener for the Indians against an unnamed Rays starter (at the time of this story) in the 6:10 PM ET first pitch.
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