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CLE@OAK: Donaldson's RBI single puts A's on the board

OAKLAND -- Ubaldo Jimenez's ability to no-hit the A's into the sixth inning on Saturday involved no secret formula.

"He just doesn't want you to touch the baseball," explained Josh Donaldson.

The A's didn't until Donaldson lined a clean RBI single up the middle with two outs in the sixth, giving Oakland its only run on another disappointing offensive night that spoiled a rather impressive defensive one in a 7-1 loss to the Indians.

Jimenez exited the game after allowing the single to Donaldson, having needed 105 pitches to get there after walking five and hitting a batter. Still, the A's managed just two more hits thereafter, while the Indians kept adding on in Oakland's 10th loss in its last 16 games.

Since the break, the A's are 13-14.

"Obviously it's not a very good time offensively right now, with a lot of guys struggling," said Brandon Moss. "When a guy's mixing his pitches well, keeping him off-balance, getting himself into trouble and getting himself out of it, then you do tip your cap. It was a frustrating night."

It was one that again distanced the A's from the Rangers, who now own a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West after beating up on the Mariners on Saturday. Oakland also trails Tampa by half a game in the Wild Card standings, while the Indians are 3 1/2 back.

"We continue to go back and forth a little bit offensively," manager Bob Melvin said. "We have to grind our way through it, get a couple of games in a row, and start feeling a little bit better about ourselves. Jimenez was, at times, effectively wild today. He does have good stuff, he does have a lot of different pitches that you have to worry about. He walked some guys, but we couldn't square him up."

"Something that I've put in my mind is not to pitch scared of walking guys," Jimenez said. "If I walk them, just go after the next hitter."

In a sense, the A's made Jimenez work hard without doing much work of their own, making right-hander Dan Straily's job more difficult.

"He has a lot of offspeed for a guy that throws 94 miles an hour," Donaldson said. "He really doesn't want you to hit the baseball. He's going to pitch around you, try to make you swing and miss. He walked five guys tonight. That pretty much tells you the story right there. It's not like there was a small zone, either. He wasn't being squeezed. It's just one of those things, with guys like that, you try to wait as long as possible. Hopefully he makes a mistake, but tonight, for the most part, he did his job."

Straily struggled out of the gate, walking two and giving up two runs, including Nick Swisher's first-pitch solo shot, in a 31-pitch first inning, before settling down and surrendering just one more run through 5 2/3 innings.

But he never truly felt comfortable on the mound.

"I don't know, I really don't," Straily said. "It wasn't exactly like I was keeping the ball down. I felt like I had good stuff tonight. I just wasn't sure all the time where it was going. It looked a lot better, I feel like, than it probably was."

Some defensive gems helped the cause, including Josh Reddick's spectacular throw from right field to gun down Drew Stubbs at third base for a double play in the fifth.

Reddick quickly transferred Michael Bourn's line drive from glove to hand and put into motion a canon of a throw that perfectly landed in the glove of Donaldson, who happened to be right in the line of the speedy Stubbs.

"If I was anywhere else, he's safe," Donaldson said. "It was right there. That was a great throw. I know what kind of arm he has, but Stubbs is fast, and he made it a pretty close play."

"I think I almost lost my voice on that throw," Straily said. "I was pretty excited. I needed that right there. It was huge. That's one thing that never goes away is defense. We seem to play good defense all the time and it was definitely on display tonight."

Shortstop Eric Sogard put on a show of his own in the eighth, claiming responsibility for all three outs. All three, arguably, were tough outs.

First Sogard dove to his right to snag a liner off the bat of Carlos Santana. Then he raced into left-field foul territory to make quick work of Michael Brantley, before ending the frame by leaping up to grab Asdrubal Cabrera's line drive.

"We have the ability to make really good plays," Melvin said. " It seems like when we do go into slumps defensively, we do it for a period. We'll have a couple bad games where we'll make multiple errors, but again, we do have the ability to play pretty well too."

This hot-and-cold type of performance better describes the offense, batting .225 with just 120 runs scored -- amounting to just 3.7 runs per game -- over the last 33 contests.

Straily has received no run support in three of his six starts since the All-Star break and two runs of support or fewer in the other three.

"For a guy that had a no-hitter going," Donaldson said, "we probably had two or three opportunities with runners in scoring position, so we could have very easily taken advantage of that. We didn't."

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