The A’s send Bartolo Colon to the mound against his original major league team Saturday night as they look for a third straight victory.
Oakland (63-55) has wavered a bit following its stunning July surge, but it remains within one-half game of postseason position behind Baltimore and Detroit.
Seven scheduled games against Cleveland (54-65) this month could help. The first of those was Friday, and the Athletics overcame a four-run deficit created by Shelley Duncan’s grand slam to win 6-4.
Josh Donaldson’s RBI single in the eighth inning capped a 4-for-4 night for the third baseman and put Oakland ahead. In his third stint in the majors this season, Donaldson is filling in for the injured Brandon Inge.
“The previous times I’ve been in the (major leagues) I’ve been so amped up I haven’t allowed my abilities to really work,” Donaldson said. “Ever since I’ve been here this time I’ve gone up there with a relaxed mentality.”
The Indians have lost 12 of 13 on the road, which may give Colon (9-9, 3.55 ERA) a good shot at reaching double-digit wins for the first time since 2005. He was 21-8 that year with the Los Angeles Angels to win the AL Cy Young Award.
The right-hander had his first crack at the feat Sunday, coming into that game having won three straight starts without allowing an earned run. He was well on his way to another strong outing, yielding one run through the first five innings, but he gave up five runs in the sixth in a 7-3 road loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“Too many fastballs in that inning,” Colon told the Athletics’ official website through an interpreter. “Everyone knows I’m a fastball pitcher. Some were a bit up, and they were looking for it.”
Returning to Oakland may help him get back on track. Since the beginning of June, he’s posted a 1.86 ERA in eight home starts, walking just five over 53 1-3 innings in that stretch.
The A’s have won 24 of 34 at home.
Colon also may be eager to face the franchise he was with for his first 5 1/2 big league seasons. In his only start against Cleveland since 2009, he yielded two hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-0 win with the Yankees on June 11, 2011.
Starting pitching has been a major problem lately for the Indians, whose rotation has a 7.92 ERA over the last 20 games, and Corey Kluber (0-1, 8.56) hasn’t been able to help as he searches for his first major league victory.
Opponents are batting .355 in his three starts since he was called up Aug. 2, and the right-hander gave up six runs in 3 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 14-1 loss to Boston.
“Kluber just didn’t have command of his fastball,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “It was up in the zone. Everything was up. He didn’t establish it and he wasn’t able to use that swing-and-miss slider that he has.”
Both leadoff men continued their slumps Friday, with Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis going 0 for 4 and Oakland’s Coco Crisp 0 for 5. Kipnis is batting .118 in his last 15 contests, while Crisp is stuck in a 2-for-21 rut.
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