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Indians rally to split doubleheader with A’s

- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - As much as Scott Kazmir won over Oakland fans with his dazzling debut, new Athletics closer Jim Johnson is losing them with another ninth-inning meltdown.

Johnson allowed a two-run single to Michael Brantley in the ninth to take his second loss in three days as the Cleveland Indians rallied for a 6-4 victory Wednesday to salvage a split of a day-night doubleheader.

"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."

The A's looked poised for a sweep after Kazmir (1-0) pitched 7 1-3 scoreless innings in the opener and Brantley's dropped fly ball helped the go-ahead run score in the seventh inning of the nightcap.

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.

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.

"It's only been two games," manager Bob Melvin said. "He has a terrific track record. He's just off to a slow start."

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 advanced on a wild pitch by Bryan Shaw and scored on 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. 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, who broke out offensively after being shut out Monday in their big league record 10th straight opening loss.

But behind a strong performance from Kazmir, the A's followed an opening day defeat with a victory for the seventh time in those 10 years. Kazmir allowed just three hits and no walks in 7 1-3 scoreless innings, striking out five.

Corey Kluber (0-1) failed to make it out of the fourth inning and lost for the first time in 13 starts since June 27. He gave up five runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 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 Josh Donaldson hit a grounder to third. Carlos Santana threw home and umpire Mark Wegner ruled that Gomes tagged Derek Norris before he touched home.

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 then allowed an RBI single to Lowrie 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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