September 30, 2014

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Indians salvage doubleheader split with ninth-inning rally in nightcap

Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley celebrates with Elliot Johnson, Mike Aviles and Asdrubal Cabrera after the last out against the Oakland Athletics Wednesday. The Indians won 6-4. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Cleveland Indians’ Michael Brantley celebrates with Elliot Johnson, Mike Aviles and Asdrubal Cabrera after the last out against the Oakland Athletics Wednesday. The Indians won 6-4. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Michael Brantley gets to head home celebrating a game-winning hit instead of dwelling on a rare error.

Brantley atoned for a dropped fly ball by hitting a two-run single in the ninth inning off new Oakland closer Jim Johnson that helped the Cleveland Indians salvage a split of a day-night doubleheader with a 6-4 win over the Athletics in the nightcap Wednesday.

“It’s just a never-die attitude, never quit, always picking each other up and always fighting to the end,” Brantley said. “What we did tonight was fun. It was special, and hopefully we’ll use that momentum to keep going.”

Scott Kazmir (1-0) pitched 7⅓ scoreless innings against his former team in his Oakland debut to help the A’s win the opener 6-1. They appeared to be on their way to a sweep when they took a 4-3 lead into the ninth with help from Brantley’s dropped fly ball.

But Johnson allowed back-to-back singles to Ryan Raburn and Nick Swisher to open the inning. After a one-out walk to Carlos Santana loaded the bases, Brantley grounded a single to right field to give the Indians the lead.

“Any time you can win a game it’s always great, but especially in a doubleheader,” said Mike Aviles, who homered earlier in the game. “Last thing you want to do is get on that plane after losing two.”

David Murphy added a sacrifice fly to end Johnson’s night to a chorus of boos. Johnson also allowed two runs in the ninth inning to take the loss on opening night and is 0-7 with a 7.94 ERA in 17 games against the Indians. More importantly for A’s fans he has lost twice since taking over from Grant Balfour as closer.

“We should be 3-0 and I take responsibility,” Johnson said. “But if I sulk or pout it’s not going to do anyone any good. I have to be better.”

Cody Allen (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win and John Axford got three outs for his second save.

The A’s had taken the lead when Brantley dropped a fly ball in left-center that allowed Josh Donaldson to reach second and ended a club-record streak of 247 games in the outfield without an error.

“They both called it at the same time,” manager Terry Francona said. “Probably the most conscientious guy on the field is kicking himself. For him to get a hit like that was really great.”

Donaldson later scored on Brandon Moss’ single that made it 4-3.

The teams played the earliest doubleheader in baseball history following the first rainout in Oakland since May 5, 1998, on Tuesday night. The previous earliest doubleheader came on April 7 in 1971, ’74 and ’96, according to STATS.

Kazmir started the day off on the right note for Oakland, allowing three hits and no walks.

He signed a $22 million, two-year contract in the offseason to replace All-Star Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Kazmir’s importance in the rotation only grew when projected Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker was lost to a season-ending elbow injury and starter A.J. Griffin opened the season on the disabled list.

“You always want to make that good first impression and that’s what he did,” catcher Derek Norris said. “If he had any type of pressure on his shoulders to do something good I think that’s pretty much eliminated.”

Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run homer for the Athletics.

Corey Kluber (0-1) failed to make it out of the fourth inning in the opener and lost for the first time in 13 starts since June 27. He gave up five runs and eight hits in 3⅓ innings. He was hurt by a nearly five-minute replay delay in the second inning.

The disputed play came with runners on first and third and one out when Donaldson hit a grounder to third. Santana threw home and umpire Mark Wegner ruled that Yan Gomes tagged Norris before he touched home.

A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the call but the ruling stood after a review of about 4 minutes, 45 seconds, because there was no conclusive evidence to overturn it.

Kluber allowed an RBI single to Lowrie after the delay to fall behind 3-0.

“By that point it was apparent I was searching and I don’t think that had anything to do with it,” Kluber said. “That being said, I thought it took way too long. It took away from the flow of the game and that’s what they are trying to avoid.”

Notes

  • Brantley’s previous error came on June 3, 2012, against Minnesota.
  • The Indians won a replay challenge in the second game when replay showed Nick Punto missed the tag on Aviles on a steal attempt of second base. Cleveland failed to score after the challenge.

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