OAKLAND -- Three batters into Friday night's game at the Coliseum, the Indians were already taking a bruising. Francisco Lindor was caught stealing and took a knee to the mouth in process. Michael Brantley hit a foul ball that bounced up and struck him in the ear. Jose Ramirez was hit by a pitch.
Things only got more painful from there.
Trevor Bauer gave Cleveland a solid performance on the mound, but the Tribe's offense went quiet against A's righty Paul Blackburn in a 3-1 loss. Blackburn fed the Indians' lineup a steady stream of breaking balls and the hitters did little with the few opportunities that arose, helping Oakland pick up its 11th win in 13 games.
"It's frustrating, obviously, with Bauer throwing the way he was throwing," Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "You just have a games like that where it's kind of a weird game."
The lone breakthrough for the Indians came in the eighth, when Blackburn was already out of the game after his 6 1/3 shutout frames. Catcher Yan Gomes delivered a one-out double off A's reliever Ryan Buchter and Lindor later brought him in with a double to center off Yusmeiro Petit.
The low offensive output continued an unfortunate theme this season for Cleveland, which headed into the night with a .224/.293/.387 slash line as a team on the road. The Indians also had an 85 weighted runs created plus away from home, meaning the club has performed 15 percent below league average in road games.
Blackburn tamed the Tribe nine with 47 breaking balls (39 sliders and eight curves) out of 98 pitches thrown on the night. The right-hander ended with five strikeouts, three hits scattered and one walk issued en route to his second win of the season.
"He located when he had to and he expanded when he had to," Lindor said of Blackburn. "He did exactly what he wanted. I chased. I personally chased. I didn't stay with my approach. He beat us today. Hat off to him."
Bauer limited the A's to two runs on six hits in his 6 2/3 frames, in which the righty struck out eight, walked one and walked off the mound with a 2.45 ERA on the year. Marcus Semien (RBI single in the second) and Khris Davis (RBI double in the sixth) each broke through against Bauer.
The double by Davis -- which proved to be the decisive run -- came on a curveball that Bauer left up in the strike zone.
"Just threw a bad one," Bauer said. "I got behind him twice. He seemed to be very patient, so I wanted to make a point of getting ahead in that count. He hit a bad pitch. He's a good hitter. That's what you're supposed to do with hanging breaking balls, hit them."
After the Indians scratched across one run to cut Oakland's lead to 2-1 in the top of the eighth, Tribe reliever Zach McAllister gave the run back in the form of a solo shot to Jed Lowrie in the home half of the frame. The blast, which was the third baseman's 14th of the year, came on an 0-2 fastball over the heart of the plate.
"He wanted to elevate it and didn't get it there, and paid a big price for it," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The bigger issue was the Tribe offense and its inability to solve Blackburn in falling to 1-3 to open this nine-game swing through St. Louis, Oakland and Kansas City. Francona compared it to Monday night, when Cardinals starter John Gant quieted the Indians over seven innings.
"It was kind of like the first night in St. Louis," Francona said. "[He had] a little breaking ball and changeup, in and out of the zone. When he got ahead, we chased a little bit. He just pitched."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Opposite day: In the second inning, Bauer fired an inside sinker to Matt Olson, who pulled in his hands and used an inside-out swing to chop the ball up the third-base line. With a pull shift in play, the baseball rolled into left field, giving Olson enough time to leg out a double. Per Statcast™, Olson had faced 33 fastballs in the inner-third of the strike zone this year, going 0-for-4 on the ones hit the opposite way. His last opposite-field hit on an inner-third heater came on Aug. 27 last year. The fluke hit off Bauer set the table for Semien's RBI single.
No-pitch Perez: Veteran lefty Oliver Perez took over for Bauer with runners on second and third and two outs in the seventh. When the A's sent pinch-hitter Mark Canha to the plate, Perez intentionally walked him to load the bases. Oakland then sent pinch-hitter Chad Pinder in to face Perez. McAllister entered in Perez's place and struck out Pinder to escape the jam. So, Perez made an appearance without an official pitch thrown. Per the Indians, it marked the first zero-pitch appearance with a walk since the new intentional walk rules were established last season.
Rally grounded: The Tribe's best scoring chance against Blackburn arrived in the second inning, when Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis connected for back-to-back one-out singles off the righty. Blackburn then induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Roberto Perez to start an 0-for-14 stretch against the Indians to finish his outing.
Bauer upped his season total to 148 strikeouts, which gives him the most strikeouts by an Indians pitcher before July 1 since 1970, when Sam McDowell set down 151. The most strikeouts in Cleveland history prior to July 1 is 174 by Bob Feller in 1946.
Rookie right-hander Adam Plutko (4-1, 4.65 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Tribe on Saturday, when the A's host the Indians in a 4:05 p.m. ET tilt at the Coliseum. This will mark Plutko's first career start against Oakland. The A's will counter with right-hander Edwin Jackson (0-0, 1.50 ERA).