3.1 - that's they key statistic so far for the A's in Cleveland as they nabbed another win tonight in a cold Eastern city to run their season-high winning streak to 5 games. 3.1, as in the amount of innings the A's have "allowed" each Cleveland ace - CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona - to pitch against them in back-to-back nights.
The Green and Gold didn't exactly hammer Carmona tonight as they did Sabathia last night, and yet, patient as always, they drew 8 walks against Fausto and scratched out 3 runs in the first 3 innings en route to running his pitch count up and forcing him out of the game early. While the A's offense worked their magic, DiNardo did his: keeping Cleveland hitters off-balance for 5+ innings, giving up hits (and 2 runs) but quickly limiting damage by inducing groundball outs - 12 in all, which is just amazing. He also struck out three and didn't walk anybody. All in all, it was about as effective an outing as we could imagine coming from our 7th starter.
The Cleveland offense looked to be on the verge of exploding after loading the bases with a couple of singles and a walk with one out in the bottom of the 6th. Joey Devine came in to relieve and after striking out Peralta , he walked David Delluci to plate a run for the Tribe. Joey eventually settled down to get a grounder to end the inning. Threat mitigated.
The A's offense would then put the game out of reach in the top of the 7th. Daric Barton and Mike Sweeney led off the inning with back-to-back singles against lefty Rafael Perez, and, then Geren, actually MANAGING for once, pinch-hit Emil Brown in place of Jack Cust, simultaneously getting the desired righty-lefty batting matchup AND improving the outfield defense for the late innings. The move paid immediate dividends as Brown stroked a belt-high, 90mph fastball into center for an RBI single. HAT TIP to our resident baseball strategist Bob Geren! Then Bobby Crosby came up and got the exact same first-pitch as Emil did and absolutely crushed it, sending it into the cheap seats in left-field for a 3-run shot - his first of the year - that put the A's ahead 7-2.
The bullpen finally got through the late innings without major drama, as Embree blew away the Tribe in a flawless 7th inning and Andrew Brown, despite giving up a late run, held the Tribe in check for the last two innings to help keep Foulke, Street and Casilla rested for tomorrow's finale.
The environment is certainly ripe for an A's sweep, as the Tribe's bullpen is taxed now after having to chew 12 innings over the past two games while the Green and Gold relievers are largely well-rested. Chad Gaudin will look to rebound from his ineffective first start tomorrow as he faces off against Cliff Lee.
On the bad news front: Ryan Sweeney left the game early with a muscle-strain in his leg. Hope this one isn't serious, but we all know how those "strains" can turn into lengthy DL stints when they are treated by Larry Davis and Company...