OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- From countless clutch homers to a 20-game
winning streak, the Oakland Athletics have specialized in
late-season, late-inning heroics over the past four years.
They seemed ready to work that magic again on Friday night --
until Casey Blake and Cleveland's bullpen stole the show.
Blake's 12th-inning homer sent the A's to their fifth straight
loss, 4-3 to the surging Indians. Oakland's lead in the AL West
dwindled to one game over the Anaheim Angels despite plenty of
chances to snap the skid that's threatening the A's run for a fifth
straight postseason trip.
Coco Crisp tied it with a home run in the eighth inning off Mark
Mulder. The Indians got 6 2-3 scoreless innings from seven
relievers, and Ryan Ludwick also homered in Cleveland's sixth
victory over Oakland in seven meetings this season.
"We came out of a real good pitching duel with a win," Crisp
said. "It was just a couple of mistakes either way."
In years past, the A's rarely made those mistakes in September.
Nick Swisher's spectacular diving catch in the 11th seemed to
herald another memorable win, but the A's couldn't do it.
After Oakland couldn't score with the bases loaded and one out
in the 11th, Blake -- hitless in his first five at-bats -- hit his
26th homer off rookie Justin Duchscherer (5-6), Oakland's fifth of
Rick White (5-5) escaped the 11th-inning jam for Cleveland, and
Bob Wickman finished for his eighth save in nine chances. The
Indians have won the first three games of their five-game West
Coast road trip.
"Our bullpen was outstanding," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge
said. "They came up huge for us. We definitely made it tough on
ourselves, but they didn't quit on us."
Mulder blew a chance at his 18th victory for the struggling A's,
who are just one game up on the Angels after Anaheim's 7-5 win over
the Chicago White Sox. The A's losing streak is their longest since
late April, when they lost six straight.
Mulder blamed himself for the lazy fastball that Crisp hit for
the tying homer.
"Those are things you can't let happen," he said. "All these
games are important. We need to come out (Saturday) and get a
All told, Oakland stranded six runners after the eighth inning.
Mulder had been hit hard in most of his previous nine starts,
with his ERA rising from 3.21 to 3.90. He was mostly in control
against Cleveland, but two homers, four walks and more mediocre run
support hurt his flagging bid for the Cy Young award.
Elarton, the former Houston star released by Colorado in May,
didn't allow an Oakland runner to reach second base in the first
five innings. Eric Byrnes' two singles were the A's only hits until
Octavio Dotel pitched into a bases-loaded jam with one out in
the ninth, but the Oakland closer escaped. The A's then got two
runners on against Rafael Betancourt, but pinch-hitter Billy
McMillon struck out.
"As we become a better team, hopefully we'll be able to finish
off a few games before they get into extra innings," said Wedge,
whose team is 11-12 in extra-inning games.
McMillon is 0-for-17 with two walks as a pinch-hitter since
May 5. ... Betancourt had three strikeouts in the ninth. ... It was
the first homer since last fall for Ludwick, who spent most of this
season in the minors following knee surgery.