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OAKLAND, Calif. — On a day with so much potential distraction, the Cleveland Indians delivered another dramatic, late-game win.
Orlando Cabrera hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth in his lone at-bat, Fausto Carmona won for the third time in four starts and the Indians beat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 on Tuesday night for their seventh straight victory. It was their fourth in a row in their final at-bat, too.
“The attitude is to win, find a way to win, hang in there,” Cabrera said.
Matt LaPorta and Jack Hannahan hit back-to-back one-out singles off Brian Fuentes (1-3) in the ninth before Cabrera came through against his former club. Asdrubal Cabrera then provided a two-run single as insurance.
LaPorta hit a tying RBI single in the seventh and the majors-best Indians (20-8) produced another impressive win. Things could have turned sour in a hurry for the AL Central leaders, who dealt with the Monday arrest of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo on suspicion of drunken driving.
Before the game, Choo apologized to each of his teammates individually in the clubhouse for his mistake and any embarrassment it caused.
After that, Choo pulled the Indians into a tight huddle near the dugout before pregame warmups and batting practice. He started in right field and batted third, going 0 for 4 with a walk. Choo was booed by the small announced crowd of 10,135.
“I think we do a great job as a ballclub once we get between the lines, it’s baseball, it’s business,” LaPorta said. “We’ve done a great job at that this year.”
Carmona (3-3), a 13-game winner and first-time All-Star last year, gave up only Kurt Suzuki’s RBI groundout in the fourth. He allowed five hits and one run, struck out five and walked one in eight strong innings — an efficient 96-pitch performance.
His curveball and slider kept Oakland off balance and he got quick outs on groundballs.
“Today, every pitch was working for me,” he said. “I was throwing strikes.”
Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save in nine tries and second in two games.
The Indians kicked off a six-game California road trip against the AL West by continuing the momentum they gained during a 6-0 homestand that gave them a 13-game winning streak at Progressive Field.
Cleveland improved to 7-6 away from home and will try for a strong showing in a venue that has been so tough for the Indians of late. They have lost nine of their last 10 series at the Coliseum. Winning the opener of this series is a good start considering the Indians dropped two of three in Oakland last year and were outscored 22-6 — with shutouts of 10-0 and 11-0.
“They’re playing well and their record reflects that,” Fuentes said. “They’re just clicking on all cylinders. They had a great starter tonight. He went out and threw the ball really well. It’s just a really good ballclub.”
Tyson Ross is still looking for his first win since joining the A’s rotation as a fill-in for the injured Dallas Braden.
Ross was rolling until allowing three singles in the seventh, including LaPorta’s tying base hit. Still, Ross has a 0.68 ERA in his last two starts, lowering him to 2.38 over six overall outings.
“We couldn’t create anything,” Orlando Cabrera said. “We got that break (against Fuentes) and we attacked.”
The right-hander pitched with runners on base in five of his six-plus innings but escaped trouble with some help from Oakland’s defense that went into the night tied with Houston for the major league lead in errors at 27.
The A’s turned a double play in the fourth following Carlos Santana’s leadoff single, then Suzuki made another stellar play in the fifth after Ross’ pitch to Grady Sizemore hit the dirt and bounced several feet away from the Oakland catcher. Suzuki quickly retrieved the ball then threw out Adam Everett trying to steal second.
But Oakland couldn’t produce enough offense after they just took three of four from the Rangers.
“Carmona had exceptional location and movement today,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “He changed speeds, good sinker, good changeup. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities.”
Veteran Cleveland designated hitter Travis Hafner, nursing a strained tendon in the bottom of his right foot, ran in the outfield to test his injury. He drew a pinch-hit walk in the seventh before being lifted for pinch-runner Orlando Cabrera.
Manager Manny Acta wanted to give Hafner one more day to heal, with the plan of starting Hafner in the middle game of the series Wednesday night. Hafner got hurt sliding into home plate to score against Kansas City last Wednesday night.
NOTES: The Indians are 16-2 when scoring four or more runs. ... Cleveland RHP Mitch Talbot, on the disabled list with a strained elbow, threw all his pitches in a bullpen session. He is slated to throw another side this weekend in Anaheim before heading to Arizona to pitch in a rehab outing at extended spring training. ... The Indians are 5-2 vs. the AL West.