OAKLAND, Calif.: It was one of those maddening games for Indians fans, who watched their favorite team litter the bases with runners, almost all of whom withered and died.
Until the eighth inning, when Brian Fuentes was called in from the Athletics’ bullpen to keep the Tribe’s one-run lead from expanding tonight. Instead, he gave up three runs and the Indians won 5-1 at Oakland Coliseum to run their record to 7-1 on this nine-game trip.
“”I was looking to play over .500 on the trip, because we didn’t have a good homestand,’’ manager Manny Acta said. “”But this has been fantastic.’’
The offense has been anything but efficient against Oakland. In two games, the Tribe wasted a vast majority of its chances, stranded 12 runners in a 4-3 win Friday night and 11 Saturday night.
But all of that was forgotten in the wake of the eighth inning rally in which Jason Kipnis played a pivotal role.
Fuentes retired the first two batters of the inning before Jason Donald and Michael Brantley singled consecutively to put runners on first and third.
Kipnis followed with a drive to deep right. Josh Reddick called for it as he retreated toward the wall, but the ball bounced out of his reach and back toward the infield for a triple.
Donald and Brantley scored to give the Tribe a 4-1 advantage, and a similar drive hit by Shin-Soo went for an RBI double that bounced out of the glove of left fielder Jonny Gomes when he hit the wall.
“”I was hoping I hit it a little farther (over the fence),’’ Kipnis said. “”I saw him go back for it, but it was out of his reach. I saw the replay, and it looked like it was just to his right, so maybe I got a little lucky.’’
Putting it in perspective, Acta said, “”That was the biggest blow of the game. Today he showed how important he can be to our offense.’’
Kipnis also drove in a run in the sixth, scored twice and had four hits for the game, raising his hit total for the season by 50 percent. He came into the game batting .167.
“”The only thing you can do is to make sure you have a good approach and swing at the right pitches,’’ Kipnis said. “”But yeah, you do get frustrated with the results.’’
Acta didn’t think the mini-slump would affect Kipnis mentally.
“”I’ve never seen him intimidated up here,’’ the manager said. “”He just gets after it.’’
Jeanmar Gomez had a few problems in the first and second innings but settled down to limit the A’s to one run, and that was let in by his predecessor, Dan Wheeler.
“”IT was a nice job by Gomez,’’ Acta said. “”Going into the game we worried a little bit about his stamina and his pitch count. He hasn’t pitched five innings since March. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled.’’
In the first, Gomez made it more difficult for himself by failing to hold runners. Leadoff batter Jemile Weeks singled and stole second easily. Two outs later, Gomez walked Yoenis Cespedes and the runners pulled off a double steal to put men on second and third. However, Gomez retired Seth Smith on an infield pop foul to end the threat.
Trouble also loomed in the second, when Gomes led off with a single, Daric Barton bounced into a force play and Kurt Suzuki singled Barton to third. But Eric Sogard lined hard to short and Weeks bounced out to avoid a rally.
Including the final two outs of the second inning, Gomez retired 11 batters in a row to take him through the fifth inning.
“”I wasn’t tired,’’ Gomez said. “”I felt good. It’s been a long time since I went more than five innings, but I prepared in the bullpen. The first two innings I was behind in the count, then I tried to put into practice what I need to do. Be aggressive with the hitter.’’
Having made his start, Gomez will drop his appeal and use the off day to push his next start back a day or two, enabling him to serve a five-game suspension for hitting Mike Moustakas of the Royals.
When Gomez gave up a leadoff double on a routine fly ball just inside the right field line, Acta called on Wheeler, who eventually allowed a sacrifice fly, cutting the A’s deficit to one run.
Gomez was charged with the run on four hits and a walk. He has made three appearances (two starts) but has pitched only 91/3 innings, because in his first start of the season he was ejected after two innings for hitting Moustakas.