OAKLAND, Calif.: The Indians are 6-1 on their nine-game trip to Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland, and no that is not a misprint or a mirage.
Granted, none of the opponents were over .500 going into tonight’s 4-3 win over the Athletics at Oakland Coliseum, but both the Mariners and the A’s began the evening 7-7.
Moreover, teams that travel from the Eastern to the Pacific time zone traditionally fare poorly no matter what the level of the competition. And that certainly includes the Tribe.
“”Right now we feel like it must be a mistake if we don’t win,’’ Jason Kipnis said. “”We expect to win.’’
Kipnis’ head first slide into the plate to beat a throw from right fielder Josh Reddick was as big a play as any in the game. When Shin-Soo Choo singled with Kipnis on second and one out in the fifth, Kipnis took off and didn’t look back.
“”He made a very nice throw, but I was fortunate to beat it,’’ Kipnis said of the run that became the difference in the game. “”I thought it was a chance to score, so I put my head down and ran. I was real excited just to be on base. It’s been awhile.’’
Teams discourqge players from sliding head first, because of the obvious health risks, but manager Manny Acta wasn’t about to reprimand Kipnis.
“”We don’t encourage guys to do that,’’ Acta said. “”We don’t teach that, because it’s very dangerous. But it happens in the heat of the moment, and that was a very nice slide.’’
Ubaldo Jimenez lived on the edge, but he didn’t fall off.
What’s wrong with allowing two runs in six innings? It’s how he got there that was scary. In addition to giving up six hits, Jimenez walked five, so he got a lot of valuable practice pitching out of trouble.
“”It was another tough night for me,’’ Jimenez said. “”I still have a lot of work to do. I wasn’t pitching good, but I was able to fight, and the guys got some runs and made good plays on defense.
“”I didn’t have anything tonight. My split was a hanging split, and they hit a home run. I had no slider and no curveball. The only thing I had was the changeup. I didn’t have anything. I knew it, and they knew it.’’
In the second inning, Jimenez loaded the bases on two walks and a single but struck out Eric Sogard on a 94 mile-per hour fastball.
In the third, Reddick homered with two outs and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single, but Seth Smith bounced to the pitcher for the third out.
Johnny Gomes started the fourth by drawing a walk, and Kila Ka’aihue hit rocket shot to Casey Kotchman at first, and he doubled up Gomes.
There was no relief for Jimenez in the fifth, either, as Reddick doubled with one out and scored on Cespedes’ single. Smith walked, but Carlos Santana threw him out at second trying to steal in what probably was the key out of the inning. Now with two outs, Jimenez struck out Gomes on a 93 mph fastball.
Jimenez retired the side in order twice, in the first and sixth innings.
The Tribe attack had problems finding holes in the defense, despite hitting several balls hard against Graham Godfrey. But Godfrey helped as best he could. Though he gave up only three hits in five innings, he walked five and hit two batters.
In the second, Godfrey walked the bases loaded with one out, and Jack Hannahan drove in Santana with a sacrifice fly.
Two more runs scored in the fourth, when Travis Hafner singled with one out, Shelley Duncan walked, and Hannahan doubled both to the plate.
Tony Sipp took over for Jimenez in the seventh and gave up a triple to leadoff batter Jamie Weeks. Cliff Pennington drew a walk and Sipp struck out Reddick.
Joe Smith was summoned from the bullpen to pitch to Cespedes, who lined a singled to right, scoring Weeks with Oakland’s third run, Pennington stopping at second. Smith then struck out Smith but walked Gomes to load the bases. However, Ka’aihue grounded to third, and Hannahan threw wide to first, but Casey Kotchman flagged it down and swipe-tagged the runner for the out.
But Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez shut down Oakland in the eighth and ninth, Perez earning his fifth save of the season.