CLEVELAND — 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, finished 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 American League 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 in a row, 14 of 15 and is 5-27 since July 27.
Questions about manager Manny Acta’s job security mount with each 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 of ending their slide 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 RBI 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.”