CLEVELAND (AP) - The Athletics got slammed by the New York Yankees and rescheduled by Hurricane Irene. They were rattled by an earthquake and attacked by tiny bugs.
Oakland's 10-game road trip East was unpredictable and often unbearable.
But it ended with a sure thing - Gio Gonzalez doing what he always does in Cleveland.
Gonzalez pitched seven shutout innings and baffled the Indians again, and the A's avoided a four-game sweep with a 7-0 win Thursday over Cleveland, which began the season's final month with a lopsided loss and another addition to its crowded disabled list.
Gonzalez (12-11) improved to 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA in six career starts against Cleveland, and extended his scoreless innings streak to 27 against the Indians. The left-hander allowed four singles, was never in trouble against a lineup missing several injured regulars, and is now 4-0 with a 0.67 ERA at Progressive Field.
How does he do it?
``Honestly, I really don't,' Gonzalez said. ``The defense does a great job. Our catchers do a great job studying video. All I try to do is pound the strike zone. That's it.'
Oakland's trip began on Aug. 23 in New York, the day a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the East Coast. Two days later, the Yankees hit a record three grand slams in a 22-9 win over the A's, whose adventure was only beginning. With Irene heading toward the Northeast, Oakland had to play a day-night doubleheader.
And then the A's came to Cleveland, where they lost three in a row, including a 16-inning marathon on Wednesday, when the infamous midges swarmed the field.
``It's going to be really good to get home,' said Cliff Pennington, who had four hits and three RBIs as the A's snapped a five-game losing streak to go 4-6 on the trip.
Gonzalez was the difference.
It helped that the Indians were missing several regulars, but it doesn't seem to matter who Cleveland puts out there against the 25-year-old.
``Gio was tough on us again,' Indians manager Manny Acta said. ``Even when we have a full deck of cards he is always tough on us. He's got an overpowering fastball and one of the best breaking balls in the league. He always cruises against us, and he did it again.'
After winning the 16-inning game that ended at 12:07 a.m., the Indians took the field at 12:06 p.m.
Their bats never awakened against Gonzalez, who won his third start in a row after five consecutive losses. He worked out of three two-on jams, twice getting Asdrubal Cabrera to pop to right for the final out.
After using eight pitchers on Wednesday, Oakland manager Bob Melvin was thankful Gonzalez kept the phone to the bullpen on the hook.
``That was big for us,' Melvin said. ``It was hot out there. It looked like he was tiring a little at the end, but we really needed him to give us seven.'
Only hours into the season's final month, the Indians had to make yet another roster move because of an injury.
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was placed on the 15-day disabled list, the latest tough break for the South Korean, whose 2011 season has been marred by injuries, an arrest on drunken-driving charges and sub-par stats. Choo strained a muscle in his side on a check-swing last week.
Choo joined the Indians' ample DL, which includes outfielders Michael Brantley and Grady Sizemore, DH Travis Hafner and starters Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco. Acta has been forced to juggle his lineup for months, and Thursday he had to use two rookie relievers Nick Hagadone and Corey Kluber, who made their major league debuts shortly after arriving from Triple-A Columbus.
``We're hanging in there,' Acta said. ``We're doing well. We've won five of the last seven games, and if you win five out of seven the rest of the way good things can happen. These guys are going to go out and battle and if we get a couple of the cards back in the next couple weeks, maybe it will give us a lift.'
Oakland strung together three straight two-out singles, and got aggressive on the basepaths to take a 2-0 lead in the fifth against Carmona.
That was more than Gonzalez needed to keep the Indians - injured or not - in check.
``That team is fighting for first place,' Gonzalez said. ``They can definitely hit a fastball up and any mistake pitches. I'm just trying to do my job. You can't do anything about it except stay away from the bats.'
Notes: Gonzalez hasn't given up a run in his last four starts against the Indians, the longest stretch by an A's pitcher against Cleveland since Bob Welch in 1990. ... The Indians said 18 dozen baseballs (216) were used in Wednesday's game, which featured 14 pitchers, 34 strikeouts and 509 pitches. ... RHP Jason Rice, acquired by Oakland just before the midnight waiver deadline in a deal from Boston, arrived at the ballpark just before game time. ... The A's open a three-game series at home against Seattle on Friday. Oakland's RHP Guillermo Moscoso (6-8, 3.80) faces LHP Jason Vargas (7-12, 4.52). Moscoso is 4-2 with a 2.81 ERA in eight home starts.
The Associated Press News Service
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