<
>

Indians starter Lee sets down 14 in a row

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The instant Bob Wickman's left foot landed
awkwardly in a hole on his first warmup pitch, sharp pain coursed
up his spine. Before his next windup, Wickman kept telling himself
to stop.

Foolishly, he didn't. Luckily, he seems to be fine.

"Maybe I should have called it quits right there," the
Indians' closer said. "I don't know. I knew she was hurting pretty
bad, but I wanted to stay in there as long as I could. It was
hurting."

Despite severe back spasms, Wickman stayed in long enough to get
two outs in the ninth inning of Cleveland's 4-1 win over the
Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

Cliff Lee outpitched Barry Zito, overcame two rain delays and
combined with four relievers on a four-hitter as the Indians
defeated the A's in a matchup of the AL's two lowest-scoring teams.

Lee (6-2) allowed two singles in six shutout innings for his
fourth win in five starts. The left-hander overcame a horrible
start, when he allowed Oakland to load the bases in the first
before wiggling out of the jam.

Ronnie Belliard hit a two-run homer in the eighth and Grady
Sizemore went 2-for-4 with two steals and an RBI for Cleveland.
Jhonny Peralta had an RBI, triple and scored.

After giving up Nick Swisher's one-out single in the second, Lee
retired 14 in a row while enduring a pair of rain delays totaling
47 minutes.

Rafael Betancourt worked the seventh, Bob Howry the eighth and
Wickman came on in the ninth to finish up, but couldn't. Cleveland
pitchers had retired 20 straight before Mark Kotsay doubled to open
the inning.

Wickman had jarred his back in a divot on the mound in warmups,
and his inability to follow through led to a pair of walks. That's
when he knew he couldn't go on and gave up the ball to pitching
coach Carl Willis.

Although his back was aching, Wickman, who missed all of 2003
following elbow surgery, was glad things weren't worse.

"It's not the arm at all," said Wickman, who contemplated
retirement after last season. "I jarred my back when I hit the
landing hole. I think you could tell I wasn't able to finish off my
pitches. Obviously I'll take a day off."

David Riske was brought in with two outs and a 2-0 count on
Swisher and gave up an infield RBI single before getting rookie Dan
Johnson, in his first big-league game, to ground to second for his
first save since July 17.

The A's have lost six straight and were nearly shut out for the
seventh time. Oakland has lost 15 of 18.

"This is really a test of what is inside our hearts," Zito
said. "We'll definitely overcome this. Sooner would be better than
later."

Zito (1-6) allowed just one run and two hits in six innings. The
lefty walked four, struck out a season-high seven but remained
winless in his last five starts.

"Barry has been a tremendous teammate through all of this,"
Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "He's in the dugout cheering for
everybody. He pitched well. We've got to let these pitchers know
that we can give them some offensive support. Our 3-4-5 guys are
not driving in runs."

Lee was thankful for the 23-minute rain delay in the third.
Unable to find his location, he loaded the bases in the first on a
single and two walks before striking out Eric Chavez and inducing
Keith Ginter to hit into a double play.

"I was actually glad about the first rain delay," Lee said.
"It gave me a chance to regroup."

Game notes
Indians manager Eric Wedge left the team to attend to a
"personal family emergency." Bench coach Buddy Bell ran the club,
but general manager Mark Shapiro said Wedge should be back in time
for Saturday night's game. ... Rain stopped the game for 23 minutes
in the third and 24 in the fifth. ... Oakland placed DH Erubiel
Durazo on the 15-day disabled list with elbow tendinitis, making
him the sixth A's player on the DL. ... 1B Johnson, who was leading
the Pacific Coast League with 41 RBI for Sacramento, was called up
by Oakland. He nearly became the 89th player in history to homer in
his first major league at-bat when he pulled a ball deep but foul
in the second. ... Indians OF Juan Gonzalez went 2-for-4 in a rehab
assignment at Triple-A Buffalo. The two-time AL MVP, out all season
with hamstring injuries, could join Cleveland as soon as Tuesday.
... The A's are 5-18 in May, their most losses in any month since
they went 8-19 in July 1997. Oakland's worst month came in June
1979, when it went 5-24.