At this time of year, it's important for playoff hopefuls to take advantage of games against non-contending clubs.
The surging Athletics look to beat the free-falling Indians for the seventh time in as many meetings over the last two weeks in Thursday's season finale at Progressive Field.
With Wednesday's 8-4 win over Cleveland, Oakland (72-57) took over sole possession of the AL's top wild-card spot for the first time since Aug. 9.
The A's, who are two wins away from matching last season's total, have won 11 of 13, with six of those victories coming over Cleveland (55-75). They swept a three-game home set against the Indians from Aug. 17-19, and are in position to sweep their first series in Cleveland since taking all four Aug. 19-22, 2002.
Although the A's are seeking their first playoff berth since 2006 and the Indians are a major league-worst 5-26 since July 27, Oakland is focused on not overlooking its woeful opponent.
"We got to go out there and play like we're facing the No. 1 team," third baseman Josh Donaldson said after hitting a three-run homer Wednesday.
Donaldson is one of the key contributors to Oakland's surge, batting .362 with nine RBIs in his last 12 games to raise his average 59 points to .226.
Oakland's pitching, however, has had the most to do with its recent success. The club's 2.41 ERA since Aug. 16 is the best in baseball, and it has limited Cleveland to 13 total runs in the last six meetings."They have a very good pitching staff," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We can see why they're playing the way they are playing."
Acta's club has already been stymied by Jarrod Parker (8-7, 3.52 ERA), who allowed six hits and a walk in eight innings of a 7-0 victory Aug. 19. The rookie right-hander wasn't quite as sharp five days later, yielding three runs and seven hits in six innings at Tampa Bay.
Parker will be facing a Cleveland team that is 0 for 24 with runners in scoring position in the series, and was in the midst of a 24-inning scoreless streak until Jason Donald 's third-inning homer Wednesday.
The Indians plated more than three runs for the first time in 10 games, though Asdrubal Cabrera had nothing to do with the relative outburst. The All-Star shortstop was ejected for arguing in the bottom of the first inning after striking out, leaving him 2 for 24 in his last seven games.
Cleveland's starter for the finale, Justin Masterson (10-11, 4.60), opposed Parker last week and was on the hook for all seven runs in 5 2-3 innings. He was much more effective against the Yankees on Saturday, yielding a run and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-1 win.
That inconsistency is nothing new. Masterson has allowed at least seven runs in three of his last seven outings while surrendering two or fewer in the other four.
He's basically been terrible in all five career starts against the A's, going 1-4 with a 9.12 ERA.
|August 18, 2012||Jordan Norberto||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tendinitis|
|August 12, 2012||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 12, 2012||Brandon Inge||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2012||Eric Sogard||15-Day DL||Strained back|
|August 05, 2012||A.J. Griffin||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|August 04, 2012||A.J. Griffin||Day-to-Day||Sore right shoulder|
|August 27, 2012||Roberto Hernandez||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right ankle|
|August 13, 2012||Josh Tomlin||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|August 13, 2012||Jason Kipnis||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||Day-to-Day||Back soreness|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|June 30, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||60-Day DL||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The only downside for the Oakland Athletics is that they don't play the Cleveland Indians again this season.
Oakland capped a four-game sweep of the free-falling Indians with a 12-7 victory on Thursday. The Athletics, who have won six straight and eight of nine, finish the season series against Cleveland with an 8-2 record. After dropping the first two games in April, Oakland won the final eight versus the Indians.
"We played against a team that we really needed to take a series from," said right fielder Josh Reddick , who had three hits and drove in three runs. "We had a great opportunity to move up in the standings against a team we've played well against all year and we did just that."
Oakland maintained its one-game lead over Baltimore for the top spot in the AL wild card race. George Kottaras ' three-run double broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth while Coco Crisp , Cliff Pennington , Josh Reddick and Josh Donaldson homered.
While the Athletics are flying high, the Indians continue to fade. Cleveland has lost five straight, 14 of 15 and is 5-27 since July 27.
Questions about manager Manny Acta's job security increase with every loss. Owner Paul Dolan said before the current homestand began last week that he had no immediate plans to fire the third-year manager, but the Indians have gone 1-6 since and show no signs their slide is going to end any time soon.
Acta has been in professional baseball since 1986. He had three managerial jobs in the minors and managed the Washington Nationals from 2007 until being fired midday through the 2009 season. Despite that experience, he's at a loss to explain his team's collapse.
"I've never been through a month like this anywhere," Acta said. "Not in Washington, the minor leagues or winter ball, either as a coach or a manager."
Jarrod Parker (9-7) gave up a leadoff home run to Jason Kipnis to start the game, but his teammates teed off on Cleveland starter Justin Masterson . The right-hander (10-12) has stopped losing streaks of 11 and nine games this month, but on Thursday he allowed eight runs, including three homers, in four innings. Masterson was pulled after the first three batters in the fifth reached base.
Kottaras had three RBIs while Crisp, Pennington and Yoenis Cespedes had two hits apiece.
Parker was pulled after the first two batters in the sixth reached. He was charged with five runs and eight hits in five innings.
"It's not too many times I've made a 12 o'clock start," Parker said. "It's like pitching at home at 9 (a.m.) so it's a little bit different. It's not an excuse. It's embarrassing to get that kind of lead and not work efficiently and get back in that dugout."
The Athletics dropped the first game of the trip in Tampa Bay, another wild card contender, before winning the final seven. Manager Bob Melvin didn't think his team would overlook the Indians despite their tailspin.
"There was never going to be a letdown with us," he said. "Every team in the American League is dangerous. I don't look at the Tampa series as any bigger than this series. This was just as big a series, as is every series after this."
Crisp's two-out homer in the third tied the game. Cespedes' single and walks to Seth Smith and Josh Donaldson loaded the bases in the fourth. Kottaras, batting .148, scored all three runners with a drive up the gap to right-center. Pennington followed with a two-run homer.
Stephen Drew started the fifth with a single and scored on Reddick's homer to right. Masterson was pulled after Cespedes' single.
Donaldson hit a solo home run in the ninth.
Parker has won his last two decisions after losing three straight starts. He pitched eight shutout innings against the Indians on Aug. 19 in Oakland.
Masterson continued to struggle against the Athletics. The right-hander is 1-5 with a 10.36 ERA in six career starts versus Oakland.
"I just don't know, it's crazy," Masterson said. "I'm sure there could be some scientifical analysis we could do out there. I'd be happy just to win some ballgames, that's about it."
Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana managed to play the entire game, but even that couldn't help the Indians. Both had short nights Wednesday as Cabrera was ejected for arguing in the first while manager Acta benched Santana for not running out a ground ball.
The Indians registered another ejection Thursday when pitching coach Ruben Niebla got the boot in the seventh inning by plate umpire Paul Emmel. Niebla went to the mound after Tony Sipp walked the bases loaded. Emmel broke up the conversation and kicked Nielba out after the two exchanged words. The argument continued at home plate and Acta stood between Niebla and Emmel.
The Indians' losing ways have shown up in the attendance. The sparse crowd of 14,500 on Thursday was quiet for most of the game and players could be clearly heard as they called for popups. One frustrated fan taped empty bags to several seats near him. The biggest noise of the day came from the Blue Angels jets flying over Progressive Field as they prepared for this weekend's air show at the lakefront airport.
NOTES: According to STATS LLC, the Houston Astros were 5-27 from July 20-Aug. 23 this season. Manager Brad Mills was fired on Aug. 18. ... Oakland is 61-35 with Cespedes in the lineup. ... The Athletics return home to begin a six-game homestand against Boston and Los Angeles. RHP Brandon McCarthy (7-5) faces RHP Aaron Cook (3-7) in the opener of a three-game set on Friday. ... RHP Chris Perez pitched the ninth for the Indians. Cleveland's closer hadn't pitched since Aug. 25 when he recorded a save against the Yankees in Cleveland's last win. ... The Indians are 5-9 at Progressive Field since Aug. 6. ... Cleveland starts a three-game home series with Texas on Friday. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (9-13) meets RHP Ryan Dempster (9-6).