It wasn’t easy, but the Indians, behind David Huff and the bullpen and a couple of big extra-base hits, hung on to beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 tonight at Progressive Field. In even better news, The Good Guys gained some ground in the American League Central.
Huff moved to 2-2 and completely erased any memory of his loss to the Tigers in his last start nine days ago, and man, this kind of effort from Huff — and from the guys in the pen — couldn’t have come at a better time.
Kosuke Fukudome kept the Athletics off the board in the second when he made a fine running catch with two outs and a man on second to retire the side, and Huff worked around a one-out double in the third. The Tribe’s bats, meanwhile, had been quieted to the tune of one hit through three innings.
In the first inning, Ezequiel Carrera walked leading off off of Brandon McCarthy (7-7) but was then caught stealing on a pitchout. Naturally, Fukudome immediately singled. When Asdrubal Cabrera and Jim Thome grounded out, the mini-threat was over for the Indians.
Carlos Santana delivered the first Cleveland hit since the opening inning to lead off the home fifth, but Shelley Duncan bounced into a double play and Lonnie Chisenhall was retired on a drive to dead center that was tracked down by Coco Crisp, and the game moved to the sixth, still scoreless.
Matsui doubled with two outs in the sixth for Oakland’s first hit since the third inning. The Tribe then intentionally walked Josh Willingham, and Huff got Brandon Allen to ground out to first-baseman Matt LaPorta to end the jam.
With two outs in the Tribe’s sixth, Carrera singled to left, and finally the Tribe broke through when Fukudome doubled down the right field line, with Carrera flying around the bases to just beat the throw to the plate, and the Indians led 1-0. Cabrera struck out to end the inning (McCarthy’s third of the frame and eighth of the game), but with a lead heading to the seventh and the Tigers losing in the fifth at home to Kansas City, things were looking up.
Huff was pulled after six innings and 99 pitches after giving up just three hits, with two walks and four Ks. Joe Smith came on to begin the seventh and plowed through a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
Santana gave the Indians a huge insurance run in the bottom of the seventh when he hit his 20th homer of the year with one out to make it 2-0 Good Guys.
Then things began getting dicey.
Smith allowed a leadoff double to Scott Sizemore in the eighth, and Tony Sipp came on for the Tribe. Sizemore then stole third. Jemile Weeks fell behind 0-2, battled and battled, and finally delivered an RBI double to cut the lead to 2-1, still with nobody out.
The Tribe caught a break when Crisp popped up on a sacrifice attempt. The ball fell and Santana threw Crisp out at first, and Weeks, not knowing if the ball would be caught in the air, had to hold at second.
Matsui then rocketed a drive to the wall in right, tracked down by Fukudome, and Weeks advanced to third on a ball which he would have scored on had Crisp got a good bunt down.
Vinnie Pestano came in with the tying run at third to face Oakland’s best hitter, Willingham, who had been intentionally walked earlier. This time the Tribe elected to pitch to Willingham, and Pestano came through with a called third strike, ending the inning and keeping the Cleveland lead at 2-1.
McCarthy worked a one-two-three eighth to give himself an eight-inning complete game. McCarthy allowed only two runs on five hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts in a very Justin Masterson-like outing.
Chris Perez came on to try to finish it off. Allen struck out leading off. Conor Jackson — mired in an 0-for-20 slump — then took a called third strike for the Indians’ ninth K of the night, leaving it up to Kurt Suzuki. Perez got Suzuki to pop out to end the game, earning his 30th save of the season and giving the Tribe a huge win.
With Kansas City rolling over Detroit, the Indians climb back to within 5.5 games of the Tigers. The White Sox, leading Cleveland by a half-game, were in the seventh inning and leading the Twins 1-0 in Chicago.
Jeanmar Gomez will get the start on Tuesday after being recalled from Columbus to fill the spot in the rotation vacated by Josh Tomlin. Trevor Cahill (9-12) will get the call for Oakland in the second of this four-game series.