Blanton drops duel to Tribe's Sabathia
A's righty takes hard-luck loss as offense continues to scuffle
CLEVELAND -- If familiarity breeds contempt, Joe Blanton had every right to have steam pouring from his ears on Wednesday night.It was an all-too-familiar storyline for Blanton: Pitch well, lose the game. In fact, it's getting to be a pretty familiar storyline for the A's in general. In the second game of a three-game series against the host Indians at Progressive Field, there again was very little progressive about Oakland's offense against the hottest pitching staff in the game. Tribe ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia extended Cleveland's string of consecutive scoreless innings by a starting pitcher to 43 1/3, and Grady Sizemore's home run to open the bottom of the first inning was all the support Sabathia needed. So, for the second night in a row, the A's wasted a rock-solid pitching performance by getting shut out, this time 2-0. "It seems like I've said it a lot this week," A's manager Bob Geren said. "[Blanton] pitched good enough to win, but their guy was better. I just said that 24 hours ago." Geren has been singing a similar tune throughout Oakland's road trip, which started in Texas on Friday. On Saturday, the A's snapped the Rangers staff's 33-inning scoreless streak, and Cleveland's staff has been even tougher of late. The Tribe has thrown four shutouts in its past five games. "Lately it seems like everyone we've run into has been hot," Blanton said. "And it was happening before we came in, so it's not like just did that to us. That's just hot pitching." The hot pitching of Sabathia is not something with which the A's are very familiar. A native of Vallejo, Calif., he took a record of 2-7 with a 6.84 ERA over 14 career starts against the A's into Wednesday's game -- including an 0-2 mark with a 14.54 ERA in two starts this year. But in sending the A's to their second consecutive shutout and fifth of the year, Sabathia exorcized some demons with a five-hitter that featured 11 strikeouts and two walks, putting to a temporary end to the mocking text messages that his Bay Area buddies had taken to sending after the latest hometown beatdown. "I'm sure they watched the game, because they thought it was going to be a bad result," Sabathia said. "So I'm waiting for those [congratulatory] texts." They would be well deserved, said Mike Sweeney, the only Athletics hitter with more than one hit against Sabathia on Wednesday. "That's the Cy Young C.C. Sabathia who normally shows up," Sweeney offered. "The last couple times we faced him, he left some balls out over the plate. Tonight, he was living on the corners, mixing his pitches, good deception. "If he pitches like that the rest of the year, the contract Johan Santana got will probably be cheap." Santana signed with the Mets for $137.5 over six years this winter. Blanton probably never will make that kind of money, but he did enter the season as the ace of Oakland's staff, and he's been consistent and reliable. Blanton, who has lowered his ERA in each of his past four starts, gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings but received less than four runs of support for the seventh time in 10 starts. He's gotten two runs or less five times and one or less three times, and despite a 3.69 ERA in 10 starts, he has six losses and but two wins. "The team has lost six times when he's pitched, is the way I like to look at it," Geren said. "He's a heck of a pitcher. You see him go out there every five days, and he gives you a chance to win. ... He's pitched well all year." To his credit, Blanton has steadfastly refused to play the woe-is-me card. He was kicking himself for the two solo homers he surrendered -- Ryan Garko went deep in the fourth -- instead of lamenting his losses. "I try not to think about it as discouraging," Blanton said. "The people who count, the people around here, they know how you're pitching." The A's got Sweeney to the plate representing the tying run after Rajai Davis' two-out bunt single in the eighth, but Sweeney popped out. "I can't think of a game I've pitched in where we didn't have a chance to win at the end, and that's all you can ask," Blanton said. "That's a positive."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.