CLEVELAND - Kelly Shoppach swung like he knew exactly what pitch was coming.
Cleveland's reserve catcher connected for a pinch-hit three-run homer to cap a five-run ninth inning rally and give the Cleveland Indians an 8-5 win over the Oakland Athletics last night.
Shoppach caught Alan Embree (1-1) when they both played for the Red Sox three years ago.
"It was do or die," the catcher said. "I knew he'd go with his bread and butter and not let a young guy beat him on his second or third pitch."
Shoppach hit the 1-0 fastball into the left-field bleachers for his fourth homer, then was pounded by jubilant teammates as he crossed the plate.
"It was exciting," Shoppach said. "I ran harder than usual because I was in a hurry to get beat up."
Cleveland's sixth win in nine games pulled the Indians into a first-place tie with Detroit in the AL Central and extended Oakland's losing streak to a season-high five games.
"It was a strike, and he let me know how good a strike it was by the way he hit it," Embree said. "This could have been a big lift for us. I let us down. It definitely stinks."
Travis Hafner's two-out, two-run double tied it.
Grady Sizemore drew a one-out walk off Embree, who had blown only one of nine previous save chances. With two outs, Victor Martinez walked on four pitches and pitching coach
Curt Young went to the mound to speak with Embree.
Hafner lined the next pitch to right-center to tie it at 5.
"I was pumped up," said Hafner, who pumped his fist in glee at second base after the hit. "I had a chance earlier with the bases loaded and didn't come through. If I don't get a hit there, the game is over."
After Jhonny Peralta was intentionally walked, Shoppach batted for utility infielder Mike Rouse and delivered the Indians' sixth win of the season in their last at-bat at Jacobs Field.
"This team always has a chance, it really does," said Shoppach, hitting .382 with 16 RBIs in 29 games. "It's a pretty special club. We all believe in one another."
The rally kept Athletics ace Dan Haren from earning his 10th consecutive win and gave the victory to Rafael Betancourt (1-0), who yielded Shannon Stewart's fifth homer in the top of the ninth that put Oakland ahead 5-3.
Mark Ellis had four hits and three RBIs for Oakland.
Haren, who has not lost in 15 starts since falling to 0-2 in his second start of the season April 7, gave up three runs and eight hits over 62/3 innings. His ERA rose to 1.91. His nine-game winning streak matches Boston's Josh Beckett for the longest in the majors this year.
"He did a great job," manager Haren fell behind 3-1 in the third inning before settling in. He retired 13 of 14 until Josh Barfield singled with one out in the seventh and Sizemore followed with a walk.
Haren got Casey Blake to pop to second, but walked Martinez to load the bases and was replaced by right-hander Santiago Casilla.
The rookie got lefty Hafner to line out to center on a 2-2 pitch to end the threat. Hafner stepped to the plate hitting .388 (19-for-49) with nine homers and 70 RBI in his career with the bases loaded.
Ellis hit a two-run homer in the fifth off Indians starter Cliff Lee and doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh against Tom Mastny, who wiggled out of further trouble.
Stewart singled with one out and scored on Ellis' double for a 4-3 lead. After Nick Swisher was intentionally walked, Mastny struck out Eric Chavez and catcher Martinez threw out Ellis trying to steal third to complete an inning-ending double play.
Ellis' two-run homer, his eighth, tied it at 3 in the fifth.