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Adjustments help lift Indians past A's

Adjustments help lift Indians past A's

OAKLAND -- They call it a game of adjustments for a reason.

You lose two starting pitchers to injury in the first two months of a season? You give a young kid a chance to shine.

You see your offense start to struggle? You mix up the lineup.

But sometimes the adjustments must be made on the fly, or, more accurately, in the game, as the Indians demonstrated Saturday afternoon at McAfee Coliseum.

Fausto Carmona, that kid given a spot in the rotation, let the A's tag him with a three-run first inning. And manager Eric Wedge's tweaked lineup was scuffling against left-handed rookie Dallas Braden.

Yet the adjustments made on the mound and at the plate, combined with a sparkling defensive effort in the infield, allowed the Indians to even up this three-game weekend set with a 6-3 victory.

It was a victory credited to Carmona, and he had to work for it. His ability to settle down after that rough first drew raves from Wedge.

"That's as impressive an outing as we've seen from him," Wedge said. "That tells you all you need to know about the young man. To be able to settle down and do nothing but get better as the game went on was impressive."

The A's impressed some early offense upon Carmona, in the form of Nick Swisher's RBI double and Jack Cust's gargantuan two-run home run to left. Carmona was leaving the ball up and paying the price.

"They were good pitches," he said, "but a little up."

The Indians were hacking away at all pitches, good and bad, from Braden in the early going. Theirs was an impatient approach that resulted in just one early achievement -- Josh Barfield's RBI triple to the gap in left-center field in the second inning.

Down 3-1 entering the fourth, the Indians needed to regroup.

"With that guy, you've got to take pitches and wait for something to hit," Casey Blake said. "He'll try to get you to fish for something."

The Indians were the ones doing the biting in the fourth. Ryan Garko and Jhonny Peralta opened the inning with a pair of singles, and Blake knocked Garko in with an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-2.

Then came the biggest hit of the ballgame. In a full count with two out, a rusty Franklin Gutierrez, making his first start since getting called up May 6, hammered a ground ball in the direction of Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez. Chavez backhanded the grounder and fired it errantly to first base, and two runs came across on the play.

"I just tried to put it in play and make things happen," Gutierrez said.

What happened was the Indians took a 4-3 lead.

And they never looked back.

By that point, Carmona had begun using his upper-90s, sinking fastball to his advantage. It helped him notch 12 ground-ball outs in seven innings of work.

In a game in which Peralta chased down and bare-handed one ball at short and Garko made a terrific diving stop of another at first, the biggest defensive plays were made by Blake.

The A's had loaded the bases against Carmona in the bottom of the fourth, when Marco Scutaro hit a grounder to Blake. The third baseman fired it to Barfield at second to ignite a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

In the seventh, with the Indians ahead 6-3 on the might of Barfield's second RBI triple of the day and Garko's RBI single, Blake and Carmona did it again. The A's had two on with one out when Shannon Stewart hit a hard grounder to Blake, who stepped on third before making a perfect strike to Garko to wrap up the second double play.

"That was the ballgame," Blake said. "That's what we have to do. You've got to be able to make pitches and play some defense, and that's what we did. It's part of the reason we won today, but we've got to do that every time."

Carmona, who gave up just those three runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts, seems to be winning every time he steps on the mound. This was his fourth straight victory, and he's further given the Indians reason to believe he's ready to assume a permanent spot in their rotation.

"He's been a breath of fresh air," Blake said. "He's our fourth or fifth starter, and anybody would love to have him as their No. 1 or No. 2 starter."

While Carmona was coming off two dominant outings against the Orioles, this start showed he has the ability to put the big inning behind him.

"I feel more calm on the mound," he said. "I have more confidence as a starter."

And Wedge, after watching his team struggle to do much of anything offensively, en route to three straight losses coming in, was given cause to be more confident in his club.

"It's not about fireworks results," he said. "It's about how you grind through and fight through at-bats. That's what we did today."

They made a game of adjustments work for them.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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