By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
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OAKLAND, CALIF.: The Indians are back in the race but not their race.
Granted the Tribe is a contender for the second wild-card entry and still a longshot threat to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division race, but the Oakland Athletics are in hot pursuit of the Texas Rangers, who lead the AL West Division by one half game.
Justin Masterson couldn’t compensate for all of the wasted chances, as the Indians lost 3-2 Friday night at Oakland Coliseum.
Masterson worked 7⅔ strong innings and was charged with all three runs on seven hits and one walk. However, he got little support, as the Tribe stranded 13 runners.
“We just missed our opportunities,” manager Terry Francona said.
Masterson (13-9, 3.59 ERA) gave the A’s a boost in the first inning, when he yielded a two-out single to Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes’ 20th home run of the season.
“I hung a slider to Cespedes, and he hit it really, really well,” Masterson said. “I just kind of flipped it up there. After that, the biggest thing was that I got ahead in the count and made some quality pitches.”
Going into the seventh, Masterson mostly had his way with the A’s, but the kind of aggressive baserunning that teams execute with two outs cost him the winning run.
The rally began with a two-out single by Stephen Vogt and continued when Eric Sogard doubled into the right-field corner. Third base coach Mike Gallego waved Vogt to the plate, and he beat the throw which was up the line and a little high.
“I think we did have a chance at him,” Francona said.
A’s starter A.J. Griffin did himself a disservice by walking five batters in five innings to run up his pitch count to 104. As a result, he was back in the dugout watching Dan Otero pitch, even though he gave up only one run, which was unearned.
The Tribe scored its only run off Griffin in the third inning, when Nick Swisher singled with one out and Santana singled with two outs. Reddick made an errant throw back to the infield on Santana’s hit for an error that allowed Swisher to score from first base.
The Indians put at least one runner on base in every inning but one against Griffin, and once they loaded the bases but did not score.
“Early in the game, he was having a tough time with his command,” Francona said. “But besides getting his pitch count up, we didn’t have much to show for it.”
Michael Brantley singled to start the second and Asdrubal Cabrera drew a walk behind him, but Yan Gomes defused the threat by bouncing into a double play. In the fifth, the Tribe loaded the bases with a two outs on a walk to Swisher, a double by Jason Kipnis and a walk to Santana. But Brantley ended the inning on a fly ball to center.
The Indians proved they could fill the bases against the Oakland bullpen, as well, and fortunately for them they tied the score before loading them up.
With Sean Doolittle on the mound in the seventh, Stubbs led off with a double and Michael Bourn bunted him to third, from where Swisher singled him to the plate. A one-out walk to Kipnis and a two-out walk to Brantley loaded the bases for a third time, but Cabrera flied out to end the inning.
The Tribe had runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth off closer Grant Balfour, but Cabrera lined into a double play to end the game.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.