By Matthew Harrington
The first game of Tuesday’s twin bill between the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians didn’t have the same pageantry or anticipation as Monday night’s Opening Day game at O.Co. That’s just fine for the A’s (1-1), who also welcomed a different end result, erasing the doubts of a 2-0 season-opening loss with a 6-1 thumping of the Tribe (1-1).
Left-hander Scott Kazmir (1-0, 0.00 ERA) fired 7 1/3 innings of three-hit, shutout baseball and an Oakland offense that stranded nine runners and mustered only five hits in Monday’s home opener exploded for a dozen base knocks and six runs. Tribe starter Corey Kluber (0-1, 13.50 ERA) departed after just 3 1/3 innings after surrendering five earned runs. Kazmir, facing the club that signed him to a career-reviving contract last season, quickly received the kind of run support Opening Day starter Sonny Gray is still waiting for.
After the southpaw dispatched the Indians in order in the first, center fielder Coco Crisp opened the A’s first at-bat by lacing the Corey Kluber 1-1 delivery to center. Designated hitter Josh Donaldson took strike three looking but Crisp put swiped his first bag of the season with to put himself in scoring position Jed Lowrie at the plate. Crisp then advanced to third on a deep pop fly by the shortstop. First baseman Brandon Moss drew a walk before Yoenis Cespedes brought Crisp home on a single to right for the first A’s run of the season. Josh Reddick grounded out to end the threat with the home team leading 1-0.
The bottom of the second mirrored the first with third baseman Alberto Callaspo and catcher Derek Norris, both making their season debuts Tuesday afternoon, singling back-to-back and second baseman Eric Sogard drawing a walk. With the bases loaded and no outs, Crisp lofted a sacrifice fly that plated Callaspo and moved Norris 90 feet from home plate.
Oakland Manager Bob Melvin used the first coach’s challenge in A’s history on the next batter after Donaldson bounced into a fielder’s choice. Carlos Santana fielded the grounder at the hot corner and fired home to cut an advancing Norris down at the plate. Melvin challenged the out ruling, but after 4 minutes and 45 seconds of deliberation it was ruled that there was insufficient evidence to overturn the call. Lowrie brought Sogard around from second on a single in the next at bat before Moss closed out the inning on a fly out to right fielder Elliot Johnson to strand a pair of runners.
For the third-straight inning, a member of the green and gold crossed home plate. Callaspo smoked a liner over right field wall with Reddick on first following a one-out walk to stake Oakland to a 5-0 edge with a third of the game played. Moss completed the A’s scoring by doubling in Lowrie on a 3-1 Vinnie Pestano fastball in the sixth. In total, the A’s three-though-seven hitters went a combined 8-for-19 after the heart of the line-up collected one hit in 15 trips to the plate Monday night.
Kazmir spared the A’s bullpen for the second half of Wednesday’s bizarre early season day-night double-header, a make-up of the first rain-out in 15 years at O.Co Tuesday night. One season removed from a 10-9, 4.04 ERA season with the Indians, allowed only four base runners with no walks and only one extra-base hit, a double by Mike Aviles with one out in the eighth inning that chased Kazmir. Aviles represented the first member of the Tribe to reach third base when Yan Gomes welcomed A’s reliever Dan Otero into the game with a ground out that advanced the runner. Aviles remained stranded at third after Elliot Johnson bounced out to Sogard for the third out
The Indians broke up the shutout, scoring in the ninth inning, their second-straight game against the A’s where they plated a run in the ninth after new Oakland closer Jim Johnson surrendered two runs in Monday night’s game to get saddled with the loss. Jason Kipnis doubled with two outs and Santana’s line drive single off Otero brought him home. Otero coaxed Ryan Raburn to ground out softly to the pitcher’s mound to finish off the game and seal the A’s 6-1 win.
The A’s enter the second of Wednesday’s two-game set in perfect position with only one reliever exhausted. Tribe starter Zach McAllister will be called on by Indians’ manager Terry Francona to go deep into the P.M. tilt after using four different relievers in the afternoon session. For Melvin’s A’s it will be right-hander Josh Lindblom on the bump. Lindblom was called as part of the special 26-man roster allotted for double-headers up to start game two over expected rotation candidates Dan Straily, Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone. Lindblom appeared in eight games, including the only five starts he’s made over three seasons, pitching 31.1 innings with a 5.46 ERA.