OAKLAND, Calif.: Why isn’t anyone complaining about the Indians’ 5-1 loss Sunday to the Athletics in Oakland?
The Tribe surely has played more capably. Nothing was off-the-charts bad, but there was room for improvement in every aspect of the game: pitching, hitting, base running, defense.
What else is there? No infielder bent on catching a foul fly fell into the seats and knocked over a fan’s beer on his girlfriend’s lap. Other than that, the Indians committed just about every kind of baseball transgression, but so what?
They completed a nine-game trip to Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland with a 7-2 record. That seldom happens, particularly when two-thirds of the games are on the West Coast.
“From what I know of history, we really have struggled to win in Oakland,” Travis Hafner said. “Seattle and Oakland are tough places to play. We had a lot of energy before today’s game. Guys really wanted to win the last one, but it just didn’t happen.”
Over the past 10 seasons, the A’s and Mariners have fielded powerhouse teams about half the time (or less, for Seattle), yet the Tribe is 12-25 at Oakland Coliseum. The story is different at Safeco Field, where the Wahoo wrecking crew is 24-16.
“I’m very happy the way we played on the road,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Winning three series is something you don’t see very often. So now we’ll enjoy the off day, put on our long johns and get busy at home.”
Pitcher Justin Masterson didn’t deliver one of his better outings, but it probably didn’t matter, inasmuch as the offense produced only four hits. After the first inning, when consecutive doubles by Shin-Soo Choo and Hafner created the only run, A’s pitchers allowed only two hits.
“We had opportunities,” Acta said. “Five times, we walked to start an inning.”
Altogether, the Tribe was the beneficiary of six walks, yet none of those runners scored or even reached third base. Three double plays blunted the attack, and only five outs were made by Oakland outfielders.
For the third start in a row, Masterson (2-0, 6.65 ERA) labored with his control, giving up four runs, six hits and six walks in five innings.
In the first two innings, Masterson gave no indication that he would do anything but demolish the Athletics.
“He struggled with his command after that,” Acta said. “But despite not showing errors on the board, there were plays that should have been made behind him and cost him a few more pitches [he threw 111].”
Masterson didn’t think he was missing the plate by much, but in the past two games, he has walked 10.
“I can’t say no [that I had good command], since I had 10 walks,” he said. “But my ball was really moving or pitches were really close.”
He mentioned missing the zone by “a hair,” and “It’s nothing crazy, just sometimes it happens.”
In his past three starts, Masterson has given up 15 earned runs, 21 hits and 11 walks in 13‚ innings.
“It’s about attacking the strike zone and being more consistent,” Acta said. “He threw a very low percentage of strikes today, less than 60 percent.”
After the first inning, A’s starter Tyson Ross (1-0, 2.13 ERA) didn’t need any help, but he got some anyway. Jack Hannahan led off the second inning with a walk and one out later, Aaron Cunningham reached because of an error by shortstop Cliff Pennington. But Hannahan misread the pitcher and was trapped off base and tagged out in a rundown.
Ross, who turned 25 on Sunday, was called up from Triple-A on Tuesday and has made two starts for the A’s.
The Indians’ defense also was less than mistake free.
With two outs in the fifth, Kila Ka’aihue slapped a tough ground ball to Jason Kipnis at second and beat the throw for a hit that eventually led to the A’s fourth run.
“Normally, Kipnis makes that play,” Acta said. “Backhanding the ball probably would have been the better choice. But it’s part of the game. Our job was to pick him up and not let things escalate.”
A walk and two singles followed the infield hit.
In the eighth, Pennington hit a ground ball to Jason Donald at short, beating it out for a single that scored Eric Sogard all the way from second on an alert play that probably should not have succeeded.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.