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Indians rally to split doubleheader with A’s

OAKLAND, Calif. – Michael Brantley atoned for a rare error by hitting a two-run sungle in the ninth inning off new Oakland closer Jim Johnson that helped the Cleveland Indians salvage a split of a day-night doubleheader with a 6-4 win over the Athletics in the nightcap Wednesday.

Scott Kazmir (1-0) pitched 7 1-3 scoreless innings against his former team in his Oakland debut to help the A’s win the opener 6-1. They appeared to be on their way to a sweep when they took a 4-3 lead into the ninth with help from Brantley’s dropped fly ball.

But Johnson allowed back-to-back singles to Ryan Raburn and Nick Swisher to open the inning. After a one-out walk to Carlos Santana loaded the bases, Brantley grounded a single to right field to give the Indians the lead.

David Murphy added a sacrifice fly to end Johnson’s night to a chorus of boos. Johnson also allowed two runs in the ninth inning to take the loss on opening night and is 0-7 with a 7.94 ERA in 17 games against the Indians. More importantly for A’s fans he has lost twice since taking over from Grant Balfour as closer.

Cody Allen (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win and John Axford got three outs for his second save.

The A’s had taken the lead when Brantley dropped a fly ball in left-center that allowed Josh Donaldson to reach second and ended a club-record streak of 247 games in the outfield without an error. Donaldson advanced on a wild pitch by Bryan Shaw and scored on Moss’ single that made it 4-3.

Mike Aviles added a two-run homer for the Indians, who now head back for their home opener Friday against Minnesota.

The teams played the earliest doubleheader in baseball history following the first rainout in Oakland since May 5, 1998, on Tuesday night. The previous earliest doubleheader came on April 7 in 1971, `74 and `96, according to STATS.

Kazmir started the day off on the right note for Oakland. He signed a $22 million, two-year contract in the offseason to replace All-Star Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Kazmir’s importance in the rotation only grew when projected opening day starter Jarrod Parker was lost to a season-ending elbow injury and starter A.J. Griffin opened the season on the disabled list.

“You always want to make that good first impression and that’s what he did,” catcher Derek Norris said. “If he had any type of pressure on his shoulders to do something good I think that’s pretty much eliminated.”

Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run homer for the Athletics, who broke out offensively after being shut out Monday in their big league record 10th straight opening loss.

But behind a strong performance from Kazmir, the A’s followed an opening day defeat with a victory for the seventh time in those 10 years. Kazmir allowed just three hits and no walks in 7 1-3 scoreless innings, striking out five.

Corey Kluber (0-1) failed to make it out of the fourth inning and lost for the first time in 13 starts since June 27. He gave up five runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings. He was hurt by a nearly five-minute replay delay in the second inning.

The disputed play came with runners on first and third and one out when Josh Donaldson hit a grounder to third. Carlos Santana threw home and umpire Mark Wegner ruled that Gomes tagged Derek Norris before he touched home.

A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the call but the ruling stood after a review of about 4 minutes, 45 seconds, because there was no conclusive evidence to overturn it.

Kluber got to throw some warmup pitches after the delay but allowed an RBI single to Lowrie to fall behind 3-0.

“By that point it was apparent I was searching and I don’t think that had anything to do with it,” Kluber said. “That being said, I thought it took way too long. It took away from the flow of the game and that’s what they are trying to avoid.”

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