Manager Bob Melvin blamed the bullpen struggles on using the same pitchers every day. The A's have won a string of close games in their streak, and setup man Lou Trivino and closer Blake Treinen have been taxed in recent days.
"Some of the other guys need to pitch," Melvin said. "Today, they weren't as sharp as we've seen them before."
After Yusmeiro Petit relieved starter Frankie Montas and gave up two solo homers in the seventh, the bullpen allowed an eight-spot in the eighth, as the Indians sent 13 men to the plate. Eight of them scored before the A's recorded an out, turning a two-run deficit into a shellacking. Chris Hatcher, who had a 1.20 ERA over his last 11 games entering Sunday, lasted four batters, allowing all of them to reach and one to score. The other three crossed the plate with Josh Lucas pitching, as Melvin wanted a ground-ball pitcher in the game. But Lucas gave up four hits and four more runs.
Hatcher hadn't pitched in five days and Lucas in a week.
"I don't think it was rust," Hatcher said. "I'm in a little rut right now. I'll dig out of it."
Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth and allowed two more runs to score. In all, the bullpen gave up 12 earned runs. It was uncharacteristic of a bullpen that has a 2.66 ERA and limited opponents to a .193 batting average in its last 39 games.
"When you haven't pitched in six or seven [games] like some of them, it's tough to locate," Melvin said.
Montas allowed three runs on nine hits -- seven of them doubles -- in 5 2/3 innings. Montas, who started off the season strong, has given up eight or more hits in three of his last four outings. He struck out six, but the Indians made solid contact and put a runner in scoring position in five of the six innings he pitched in. They scored in three of those frames, and Montas departed trailing 3-1 in the sixth after an RBI double by Jason Kipnis.
"I felt like after the first inning, I was able to hit my spots," Montas said. "Last inning, I missed my spot a couple of times. They were good fastball hitters, so they took advantage."
But the bullpen quickly made Montas' struggles seem minuscule. The Indians recorded 20 hits and had 11 doubles against A's pitching, which is the most by a team at the Coliseum. It is also the first double-digit double game in the Majors since 2012.
Prior to the eighth, the A's had cut a 5-1 deficit to 5-3 with two runs in the seventh off Indians starter Mike Clevinger and seemed poised for another comeback.
HE SAID IT "It's unfortunate that this game got completely out of hand for us. The guys have felt great about not only playing well, but coming back. We felt like we had a chance to come back there in the seventh and eighth innings too. We didn't come all the way back, but we got some good at-bats, it just got a little out of hand … It's just one loss today." -- Melvin
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY Outfielder Mark Canha's attempt to steal second in the seventh inning ended an A's rally that had already produced two runs. The call stood after a replay review.
UP NEXT The A's will have a day off Monday before beginning a two-game set against the Padres on Tuesday at the Coliseum. Chris Bassitt will look to build off his first win of the season, while Clayton Richard (7-7, 4.29 ERA) will toe the slab for the Padres. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. PT.
Eric He is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland.