Sheldon Ocker

CLEVELAND: Maybe it’s a start. For only the first time in the past 10 games, the Indians scored more than three runs Wednesday night.

But did they win? That still seems to be an insurmountable task, as they went down to defeat 8-4 to the Athletics at Progressive Field.

For the record, the Tribe’s current losing streak stands at a modest four, but the Woeful Wahoos have dropped 13 of their past 14 and 26 of their past 31.

Vinnie Pestano, who gave up two runs in the ninth, blamed himself; Asdrubal Cabrera got himself ejected in the first inning for disputing strike three with umpire Gary Darling, and for the first time this season, manager Manny Acta called out a player for loafing.

It was curious that Acta would replace catcher Carlos Santana with Lou Marson to start the seventh inning.

“Carlos looked a little sluggish, a little tired,” the manager said. “We can be beat, but we’re not going to look beaten. Everybody has to give his best effort. And there were a couple times when Carlos ran to first [and didn’t].”

Losing wears on players, who show their feelings different ways. Often after a game, players stay out of the clubhouse until the media leaves to avoid answering the same questions repeatedly or to avoid taking responsibility for a play that triggered a defeat.

Others have short tempers with umpires.

“It was unfortunate with Asdrubal,” Acta said. “Everybody knows he [Darling] missed the pitch. What’s hard is that we talked to Asdrubal about chasing balls out of the zone, and then [the umpire] misses the pitch. They never admit a mistake. And Asdrubal said the wrong words.”

Pestano hasn’t been at his best the past two weeks, but nobody is pointing fingers at him. So he decided to do that to himself.

“I know for a fact that I’ve never been in this situation before,” he said. “I can talk about the first 4˝ months all I want, but the last two weeks I haven’t gotten the job done, and that’s not acceptable.”

He lamented what he believes was a lost opportunity to be a legitimate playoff contender.

“A month ago we were in it,” Pestano said. “Now, we can’t even sniff the second wild card. We can say we’re a better baseball team than this, but we’re not showing it. I don’t think there is any team that is happier to see August go.”

At least the offense came alive, if only for one inning, and against a left-hander, Travis Blackley.

Jason Donald led off the third inning with his second home run of the season, and Ezequiel Carrera legged out a triple to the left-center field wall. Jason Kipnis got the RBI by slapping a ground ball to the second baseman.

The A’s gave the Tribe two unearned runs in the eighth on an error by third baseman Josh Donaldson, who with runners on first and second, dropped the ball running Shin-Soo Choo back to second base, loading the bases with nobody out. A sacrifice fly and ground out scored the runs.

“As much as we talk about the [problems of the] offense, they have a very good pitching staff,” Acta said.

Corey Kluber didn’t put the rotation to shame — under the circumstances that would be difficult — but his timing was awful. After 15 scoreless innings, the Tribe finally put two runs on the board to take the lead in the third inning.

The last thing a pitcher wants to do is give it back the very next inning, but that’s what happened in the fourth, when Donaldson hit a three-run homer to wipe out the Indians’ 2-0 advantage.

“Except for that one pitch [to Donaldson], I pretty much executed all my pitches,” Kluber (0-3, 5.16 ERA) said.

Acta was extremely pleased with Kluber’s outing.

“I was very encouraged by the way Corey threw the ball tonight,” the manager said. “That’s what this is all about. He pounded the strike zone all night, but he did struggle with the right-handers, which is unusual for him. His only mistake was that hanging slider to Donaldson.”

With one out in the sixth, Josh Reddick beat out an infield single and Donaldson slapped a ground ball to Jack Hannahan at third. He delivered the ball to Donald for the force on Reddick, but the ball somehow eluded the grasp of Donald for an error.

With Reddick on third and Donaldson on first, Derek Norris hit a ground ball to Matt LaPorta, standing near first base. LaPorta stepped on first and looked at second for the double play.

Then he noticed far too late that Reddick was steaming toward the plate and hurled the ball to Santana, who watched Reddick score before the ball reached him.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.