<
>

A's hit early, cruise past Indians for series split

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- This time, the Oakland Athletics produced
the decisive big inning and provided an offensive show.

What a different team than one day earlier.

Nick Swisher drove in three runs with two doubles and the A's
scored five times in the first inning, splitting a two-game series
with Cleveland by beating the Indians 12-4 Thursday.

Cleveland turned a nine-run seventh Wednesday night into a 14-3
rout of the A's, who had their five-game winning streak snapped
with that defeat.

They quickly bounced back with their bats, patiently working
counts and drawing 11 walks.

"It shows the character of this team coming back from the
whipping last night," said Swisher, off to a sensational start in
his second big league season with a .330 average, 10 home runs and
28 RBI. "Hitting's contagious."

Eric Chavez drove in three runs with an RBI single, an RBI
double and a sacrifice fly. Adam Melhuse hit a two-run double in
the first for the A's, whose big day on offense helped fill-in
starter Kirk Saarloos to his first win of the year in his first
2006 outing as part of the rotation.

Indians slugger Travis Hafner homered to center leading off the
ninth for his fourth homer in four games and 11th of the season. He
has a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .393 with the four
homers and 14 RBI during that stretch.

Mark Kotsay had two RBI, including one on a bases-loaded walk
after Cleveland reliever Guillermo Mota walked the first four
batters of the seventh.

Bobby Crosby hit a two-run double in the seventh, becoming the
last starter on both teams to reach base. Mark Ellis and Swisher --
who got aboard in all five plate appearances -- drew three walks
each and Jay Payton had two free passes and doubled.

Payton had only one walk all season entering the game.

"I'm a walking machine now," he said with a grin.

Saarloos (1-0) allowed one run and eight hits in five innings,
struck out five and walked two in an impressive start only six days
after coming out of the bullpen to earn his first career save at
Kansas City. It didn't hurt that the A's put up their second-most
runs of the season behind the 13 they scored in a rout at Kansas
City last Sunday.

"I did that in college as well. Whatever the team needs, you
try to be available," Saarloos said of changing roles. "They got
eight hits, but minimal damage was the big thing."

Chad Gaudin pitched four innings for his first major league
save.

Grady Sizemore hit a solo homer in the eighth for his second of
the season and Ronnie Belliard had three hits and drove in a run
for the Indians, who continue their eight-game road trip this
weekend in Seattle having lost four of six. Victor Martinez singled
twice, extending his streak for reaching base safely to 43 games
dating to last Sept. 17.

Casey Blake, back in the No. 9 hole for Cleveland a day after
going 3-for-5 in the fifth spot, singled in a run in the fourth to
get the Indians on the board. They managed 14 hits after getting 18
the previous night but couldn't convert the hits into nearly enough
runs.

"You can't get too excited about big games because anyone can
have a bad week, too," Cleveland's Ben Broussard said.

Oakland knocked Jason Johnson (2-2) out of the game after only
two innings in which the right-hander gave up seven runs and six
hits, walked three and didn't have a strikeout in his shortest
start of the year.

"You saw it. It was one of those days where I wasn't getting
the ball down and balls were getting through," Johnson said. "To
me it's unexplainable right now. I have to forget about it, put
this start behind me and make sure it never happens again."

A's catcher Jason Kendall had the day off and Melhuse started in
his place. Oakland manager Ken Macha expected to hear soon about a
likely suspension for Kendall, who charged the mound after nearly
being hit by a pitch from John Lackey, triggering a bench-clearing
fight Tuesday against the Angels.

Game notes
Oakland ended a three-game losing streak to the Indians.
... Saarloos is one of two pitchers plugged into the rotation with
regulars Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza on the disabled list. ...
A's DH Frank Thomas got the day off. ... Cleveland reliever Jeremy
Guthrie, a former Stanford star, pitched three innings in his first
outing back in the Bay Area since college. His parents made the
trip from Ashland, Ore. ... Kendall received a four-game suspension
in August 2004 while with the Pirates for a similar scuffle when he
charged the mound in a game against Colorado after being hit by
now-teammate Joe Kennedy, who received a five-game suspension.