The Cleveland Indians will have to wait a bit longer for their next 4-game win streak after Oakland handed the Tribe a 7-0 drubbing behind the continued success of left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who combined with Craig Breslow for the 5-hit shutout before 14,192 in a getaway day matinee at Progressive Field.
The Indians, who achieved their first 3-game win streak since June 29-July 2 with a 4-3 win over Oakland on Wednesday, were denied the team’s first 4-game win streak since May 20-23 with the loss. That 4-game win streak that included three wins over Cincinnati and a victory over Boston, pushed the Tribe to a season best 15-games over .500 at 30-15 at the time.
Since that date, the Indians have gone 38-51 to fall from first place with a 7-game lead to 5-1/2 games behind Detroit for the AL Central title with 28 games remaining on the Cleveland schedule.
Gonzalez, (12-11), stretched his scoreless string against Cleveland to 27.2 innings by going 7.0 innings, giving up four hits and four walks with seven strikes outs in improving to 5-0 lifetime against the Indians.
The combined shutout by Gonzalez and Breslow marked the 12th time this season Cleveland has been shutout and dropped the Indians to 7-37 when scoring two runs or less and 15-48 when scoring three or less.
In an 11-game home stand that ended Thursday, Cleveland was 6-5 and outscored 52-41. Cleveland scored four or less in seven of the 11 games at Progressive Field against Seattle, Kansas City and Oakland with a 3-4 record in those seven games. The Indians were 3-1 in the games they scored at least five runs.
The A’s, who snappped a 5-game slide, got a 4-for-5 day with three RBI from Cliff Pennington while former Indian Coco Crisp was 3-for-5 with two RBI and Jemile Weeks scored three times and drove in a run.
Cleveland, fresh from a 16-inning, 4-3 win the previous night that included two home runs from Jack Hannahan, had a runner reach as far as second only three times while the A’s had five at-bats with the bases loaded, going 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly.
The Indians’ four hits off Gonzalez included two from Lou Marson, who struck out four times in the 4-3 win on Wednesday, with singles in the third and seventh. Shelley Duncan singled in the second and Kosuke Fukudome followed Marson’s seventh inning hit with a single. The other Tribe hit was a ninth inning single by Jason Donald off Breslow.
Oakland scored twice after two out in the fifth when Pennington and Crisp had back-to-back run scoring singles after Anthony Recker drew a one out walk, was erased on a fielder’s choice by Eric Sogard and a single by Weeks.
Weeks made it 3-0 in the fifth when his sacrifice fly to left was dropped by Jerad Head for an error. Pennington then loaded the bases with the third of his four singles that ended the day for Tribe starter Fausto Carmona, (6-13) who went 6-plus innings, allowing four runs, three earned on eight hits with two walks and six strike outs in the loss.
Nick Hagadone, who came the Indians in a trade with Boston that included Justin Masterson for Victor Martinez, made his Major League debut and got Crisp to hit into a force play at the plate before Hideki Matsui delivered another sacrifice fly for a 4-0 Oakland lead.
The A’s then scored three more off Hagadone with two out in the seventh when he left the bases loaded and Pennington drove in two with his fourth single and Crisp concluded the scoring with an RBI single off Corey Kluber, also making his Major League debut for Cleveland. Kluber came to Cleveland in a 3-way trade with San Diego and St. Louis that sent pitcher Jay Westbrook to the Cardinals.
Cleveland had runners reach second in the fourth, fifth and seventh inninngs with no success. With one out in the fourth, in a scoreless game, Carlos Santana reached on a walk before Duncan was safe on an error by Pennington at shortstop. But Gonzalez got Hannahan, who homered twice and had the game winning hit in the 16th the night before, on a fly ball and struck out Donald.
In the fifth, with Cleveland trailing 2-0, Marson drew a one out walk and Fukudome was issued a two-out walk only to see Asdrubal Cabrera fly out to right.
The seventh saw a similar situation with Marson getting a one out single and Fukudome a two-out single in the only inning the Indians had two hits. Cabrera again flied out to right for the third consecutive time in an 0-for-4 day to end the rally.
Cleveland, which did not lose ground to first place Detroit, which lost 11-8 at home to Kansas City, will be on the road to play the Royals in a 3-game set starting Friday. The Tigers, 5-1/2 games up on both Cleveland and Chicago, remain home to host a 3-game series on Friday with the White Sox.
The Indians then return home to host a 3-game series with Detroit that begins with a Labor Day game with the Tigers. The two teams also meet each other for three games Sept. 26-28 at Comerica Park to conclude the 2011 regular season.
Detroit, which went to the World Series in 2006 as the AL’s wild card team, is one of just eight teams to fail to win a division title since the 3-division format was initiated in the 1994 season that ended in a strike an no World Series.
The other teams with out a division crown since that time include Kansas City, Toronto, Washington and Pittsburgh, who have not reached the post season since the 3-division set up began while Florida, which won two World Series in 1997 and 2003 as a wild card entry, Milwaukee, a wild card qualifer in 2008 and Colorado, which also was a wild card qualifier in 1995, 2007 and 2009 with a spot in the 2007 World Series, join Detroit as the other teams without division titles but having wild card post season history.