BY STEVEN LUKE
The Oakland Athletics have been winning and they have been doing it in close games. Coming into today’s game they were the only team in Baseball not to lose a game with a lead after seven innings. They’ve been testing their ability to hold leads late by playing in close games all week and because of that they have overused key members of their bullpen.
Last night, eighth inning set-up man Lou Trivino wasn’t available and today closer Blake Treinen wasn’t available. That slotted Trvino into the closers role for today. He was up in the bottom of the eighth inning ready to protect a one-run lead in the ninth, but he ended up sitting down as his teammates put up four runs on the board. It seemed like his day was done, but he ended up getting back up and coming in when Santiago Casilla, who hadn’t pitched in six days, loaded the bases while only recording one out. Trivino came in and got former Athletic Yonder Alonso to ground into a game ending double play for his third save of the season to preserve a 7-2 lead and the sixth straight win for Oakland.
The story of the game was mistakes. The Indians took the lead early in the game when A’s starting pitcher Edwin Jackson made two mistakes in the fourth inning that resulted in deep solo home runs by Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez two batters later. Those would be the only two mistakes the well-travelled veteran would make in his 6 2/3 innings.
Those two long balls were the only two hits he allowed and he did not walk a batter while striking out six Indians batters. The good outing for Jackson was due in large part to his fast ball that varied in speeds at one point reaching 97 on the stadium radar gun and ability to throw all of his pitches.
“It’s like he’s got three different fastballs,” Manager Bob Melvin said. “One cuts a little bit. One sinks a little bit. A four-seamer that he pulls out 96 when he wants it. Enough sliders and change-ups with an even better change-up than his last time.”
A lot of people didn’t see this coming from Jackson when he got called up because in his three starts for AAA Nashville he was throwing approximately 20 pitches an inning, but once he got to the big leagues it was like something changed.
“Its different circumstances,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to say anything bad about Triple-A, but up here it’s expected. You’re playing baseball at the highest level. It’s not something you do intentionally. Once you get to the big leagues the pressure is different. The amount of mistakes you’re allowed to make are different.”
Jackson wasn’t the lone star on the mound. For five innings A’s batters could not do anything against Cleveland starter Adam Plutko, but mistakes and possibly fatigue bit him in the sixth. It was that inning that Plutko finally gave up a hit, and then the hits just kept coming as Josh Phegley followed Franklin Barreto’s leadoff double with a home run to tie the game that landed on the ledge of the out-of-town scoreboard in leftfield.
Dustin Fowler singled next and Mark Canha came feet from hitting a home run to almost the same spot as Phegley, but it banged off the scoreboard for a double that scored Fowler from first to give the A’s the lead. Plutko settled down and got two outs before being pulled for lefty Oliver Perez, but his one mistake inning was all the A’s would need.
“He was dotting everything for the first several innings or so,” Melvin said about Plutko. “I don’t think he missed a spot with his slider and his fastball. They were coming back saying “he’s pretty much painting it .”
He was painting to the tune of perfect through five, but at the end of the day the A’s offense was able to capitalize on the pitching mistakes and the big offensive producers were Phegley who hit the game tying home run and Fowler who scored the winning run and later hit a home run to give the A’s their first insurance run during a four run eighth inning.
Fowler said of his home run it was about as far as he can hit a ball. For Phegley it was a crazy at bat that almost ended on a pop up foul that Indians catcher Yan Gomes couldn’t handle as he crashed into one of the cameras behind home plate.
“Kind of a crazy at-bat there. The whole time I was just thinking, move the runner, hit a ground ball to the right side,” Phegley said. “Then I got two strikes and I just got my bat on it.”
The win gives the A’s the series win over the Indians who are in first place in the AL Central and gives the team the opportunity to complete back-to-back series sweeps with a win on Sunday. The A’s will send flame-throwing Frankie Montas (4-1, 3.68) to the mound against Steve Clevenger (6-3, 3.03).
Game Notes: Canha has now reached base safely in his last 10 games and has a nine game hitting streak, the longest hitting streak of his career.
The A’s are now 32-0 when leading after seven innings. They are the only such undefeated team in the majors.
Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis has now reached base safely in each of his last 13 games.