OAKLAND, Calif.: As the surprise team of the American League, the Athletics have something to play for: the postseason. They might be too far behind the Rangers to win the Western Division title, but they remain in the wild card race.
Moreover, they had the good fortune to start left-hander Tommy Milone tonight. Nuff said. Final score: A’s 6, Indians 4.
That put another dent in the Tribe’s record (14-26) when the club is opposed by a left-handed starter.
Milone did his job, but the real hero of the game for the Athletics was third baseman Josh Donaldson, who came into the game with a .167 batting average and eight RBI in 108 at-bats.
“”Somebody has to bat at the bottom of the order,’’ manager Manny Acta said. “”These guys are all in the big leagues. He hit everybody.’’
Donaldson amassed three singles and a double and drove in two runs, including the game winner in the eighth.
One bad play in the field and one swing of the bat by Shelley Duncan gave the Indians command of the game in the fourth inning. But in a matter of minutes, command turned into a bare-bones lead.
The fourth inning began with Milone issuing a walk to Carlos Santana. Michael Brantley followed with a routine fly to short left. Shortstop Cliff Pennington retreated, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes sort of tiptoed in, even though he was obviously in better position to make the catch.
In the end, the ball fell between them and Cespedes was charged with an error that put runners on first and second. Jason Donald followed with a single that loaded the bases, which usually is a bad omen. Coming into the game, the Tribe was batting .202 when the bases are full.
This time, Duncan whacked a 3-and-2 pitch over the wall in left for the first grand slam of his career, giving the Indians a 4-0 lead.
“”Our strategy was to get through the fifth with that lead and then use our bullpen,’’ Acta said. “”But we couldn’t keep them down.’’
Zach McAllister held Oakland scoreless for three innings, giving up three hits but inducing six ground outs and striking out two. But when the Tribe scored, either the A’s got tougher at the plate or McAllister became more vulnerable.
Chris Carter led off with a single and Brandon Moss drew the first walk of the game of McAllister. After Jonny Gomes struck out for the second time, Josh Donaldson doubled home one run, leaving runners on second and third. Derek Norris’ ground out to third scored a second run, and Pennington’s single drove in the third of the inning.
“”Zach threw OK, but he couldn’t get that shutdown inning and let them back in the game,’’ Acta said. “”He battled, but his off-speed pitches were not as effective, and he wasn’t as tough on right-handed batters. Usually he’s lights out against them.’’
In the fifth inning, the Athletics tied the score, mostly because of inattention to Cespedes, who doubled with one out. Cespedes got in prime position by executing an easy steal of third. He scored on Carter’s sacrifice fly. Moss struck out to end the inning, making the stolen base the key play of the inning.
“”I have to do a better job of holding runners and minimizing damage,’’ McAllister said.
McAllister pitched through the sixth, allowing eight hits and one walk, while striking out six. He did give up another run after the score was tied.
Milone lasted five innings, giving up nothing after Duncan’s blast. He yielded six hits and one walk, striking out six. One of his four runs he allowed was unearned.
Donaldson came through again in the eighth to snap the tie. Joe Smith began the inning for the Indians by walking Carter and giving up a single to Moss. Vinnie Pestano rushed to the rescue, but pinch hitter Josh Reddick’s bloop fell for a single to load the bases, bringing up Donaldson, who singled home Carter with the go-ahead run. Pennington’s sacrifice fly scored the final Oakland run.
Acta cited walks as the key element in the defeat. The A’s rally in the fourth began with a walk and so did the rally in the eighth.
“”We’ve allowed more runs than anybody,’’ Acta said. “”I think there’s a correlation between that and walks.’’
Tribe pitchers have walked more batters than any staff in the American League.