CLEVELAND -- The A's were apparently over all the drama.
Following a streaky five-day stretch through New York and Boston that brought about spotty offensive performances and, on Saturday, even more unpredictable weather that forced more than five hours worth of rain delays during a seemingly never ending doubleheader, the A's came into Cleveland on Monday cleansed of it all.
And perhaps it showed a little too much in what turned out to be a classic pitcher's duel between Oakland's Brandon McCarthy and Cleveland's David Huff.
McCarthy allowed just two runs in an eight-inning complete game, but Huff surrendered none in six, as the A's fell, 2-1, in the four-game series opener.
"Four games with a team we should beat, we need to beat," Cleveland's Chris Perez bluntly stated of an Indians club clinging to contention. "We don't have much time left on the calendar."
For the A's, that time is meant to be spent building momentum for what they hope is an improved 2012 campaign. But Monday's act essentially marked the continuation of a lifeless offensive performance, as the A's tallied only five hits on the night -- just three against Huff -- and have now scored a combined four runs in their last three games after collecting 36 over their previous 37 innings.
"Guys have pitched well against us and we haven't swung the bats as well, but that's when you have to do other things to win ballgames," manager Bob Melvin said.
Their latest struggles at the plate unfortunately coincided with one of McCarthy's most dominant showings of the season. The A's righty struck out a career-high 10 and, at one point, retired 11 straight.
It marked his third complete game of the season and third loss in such contests.
"Other than being some sort of statistical fluke or giving up runs when I shouldn't be, it kind of makes it a little rough, but I'm sure I'll get one without the eight-inning variety and losing on the road," McCarthy said. "It's just kind of a bittersweet feeling. I want to get deep into games, and getting a complete game is a point of pride, but doing it and giving up some runs isn't something I feel good with."
One particularly proved damaging.
Kosuke Fukudome's sixth-inning RBI double broke open a deadlocked game, but it was Carlos Santana's solo shot to right-center in the next frame that extended Cleveland's lead to two, which ultimately proved just enough.
"Just the one pitch, the home run," Melvin said. "He certainly deserved to finish the game."
"One pitch, I haven't gotten to see where it is," McCarthy said. "I'm assuming it was more middle than I'd like, but that sullies the whole day."
McCarthy utilized just 104 pitches in the effort, making use of a high fastball for plenty of his K's and doing "what he always does," Melvin said.
"We couldn't do much against McCarthy," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He was very, very good with that cutter and the sinker coming from the same slot. He worked both sides of the plate and was very effective. He had us going back and forth, chasing his pitches. But we got some clutch hitting."
Oakland, meanwhile, went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left a total of six on base.
The A's threatened in the eighth against the Tribe's bullpen, posting a run on Jemile Weeks' RBI double against right-hander Joe Smith, before Josh Willingham stranded Weeks on third with two outs when he was left frozen at the plate on righty Vinnie Pestano's called third strike.
It was a questionable verdict from home-plate umpire Rob Drake, one that brought about readable responses from a grumbling A's clubhouse.
"No comment," replied Melvin.
"No comment," Willingham offered just a minute later. "You make your own observation."
Their words just as plentiful as their offense, the A's dropped to 3-4 on their current 10-game road swing and have now lost four of their last five.