OAKLAND, Calif. — Kurt Suzuki thinks defense first. When the catcher makes a rare appearance as Oakland's cleanup hitter, though, he slides into the role of run producer.
Suzuki hit a three-run homer to help the Athletics beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 on Thursday night.
“When you're not trying to do too much it seems the ball goes farther,” Suzuki said. “We're having fun and it's showing on the field.”
Suzuki batted fourth for the fifth time this season, and improved his slugging percentage in the spot to .667. He's hitting .286 there with a pair of home runs and eight RBIs.
“He doesn't strike out much and puts the ball in play,” A's manager Bob Geren said. “That's how you pick up runs when you have a man at third.”
Suzuki has driven in 21 runs over his last 17 games despite hitting .219 over that span. He leads the A's with 78 RBIs and is trying to become the first catcher to lead the team in the category since 1944.
“I just want to be productive,” he said. “Last year I hit .279 and had half as many RBIs (42). I want to put the ball in play and make the defense work.”
Adam Kennedy doubled twice and drove in a run for the A's, who have won four straight and nine of 11. Clayton Mortensen (2-2) pitched five innings to win his second consecutive start.
“He did his job; he kept the ball down and we got him some runs early,” Geren said. “I'm happy to get what I got out of him. His first inning was about as good as you can pitch.”
Trevor Crowe tripled home a run and Michael Brantley added an RBI groundout for the Indians, who have lost five straight and nine of 10. Lou Marson had a career-high three hits.
“We're going through a tough stretch right now,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We have a lot of young (hitters) and we're chasing a lot of bad pitches. It's something we have to battle through. We probably made four or five mental errors and they add up.”
Mortensen gave up two runs and four hits, struck out four and walked three. Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 29 chances, and has converted his last 20 opportunities.
Justin Masterson (4-8) lost his fourth straight decision, allowing five runs and six hits over four innings.
The A's scored four times in the third to build a 5-0 lead. Cliff Pennington led off with a walk and scored on Kennedy's second double. After Rajai Davis struck out, Ryan Sweeney walked and Suzuki followed with his 13th homer.
“I just kind of hung that sinker to Suzuki that he hit out,” Masterson said. “It's 0-2 and you want one that goes down to the dirt, not one that just hangs out in the middle of the plate and says 'Hit me over the fence.' So he did what he's supposed to.”
Kennedy went 2 for 5 and is batting .383 in September, with 10 multihit games. Kennedy leads the A's with 41 multihit games despite joining the team on May 8.
NOTES: In the eighth, Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch for the 15th time this season and Cleveland's major league-high 78th plunking. ... X-rays on Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera's sore right knee were negative and he's likely to return to the lineup on Saturday. ... A's RHP Vin Mazzaro will not pitch the rest of the season due to right shoulder tendinitis. ... A's LHP Dana Eveland will start Sunday's series finale.