September 22, 2014

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Indians 6, A’s 2: Offense backs Gomez

Indians starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez pitches in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday. (AP photo)

Indians starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez pitches in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday. (AP photo)

CLEVELAND — The Indians got another quality pitching performance Tuesday night at Progressive Field. And this time they even mixed in some offense.

Another strong effort from Cleveland’s pitching staff was backed by rare run support, with the Indians using the combination to turn back Oakland 6-2 for their fourth win in five games.

Injuries have depleted the Indians’ 25-man roster but not its heart, with a makeshift club still staying alive in the race for the Central Division crown despite long odds.

“We’re battling, that’s the main thing,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team trails the first-place Tigers by 5 1/2 games and the second-place White Sox by a half game. “I feel like we still have a couple streaks in us. We just have to take care of our business.

“The pitching is there. When you have that, you have a chance to win every night.”

Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez gave the Indians more than a chance Tuesday, pitching like a veteran that has been in the rotation all season, not a youngster making his third start of the year.

Gomez was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to start the second game of the series against Oakland and earned the right to make at least another one after allowing an unearned run on six hits over six innings.

Gomez, who went 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA in 11 starts for Cleveland last year, didn’t allow a run over his first four innings before his own error led to one in the fifth. He pitched a scoreless sixth and turned it over to the bullpen, which allowed a run but preserved the win without having to use closer Chris Perez.

“Gomez threw the ball very well for us,” Acta said. “He got into a very good groove. He had very good movement on his fastball. That’s what made him effective last year.

“The young man gave us a lift today.”

Despite being thrust into a pennant race with just a pair of big league outings under his belt this year, Gomez, who went 10-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 21 starts at Columbus, showed no nerves.

He outdueled Oakland starter Trevor Cahill, an All-Star last year, who allowed five runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Gomez said. “I tried to do what I’ve been doing at Triple-A.”

The Indians, who had played four straight one-run games coming in, appeared to be headed in that direction again, leading 2-1 through five innings.

But Cleveland broke it open with a four-run sixth that was powered by a pair of two-run home runs from Carlos Santana and Jack Hannahan.

Along with Kosuke Fukudome, who plated the Indians’ first two runs with a double in the third inning, Santana and Hannahan have been Cleveland’s hottest hitters as of late.

Santana, who homered for the second straight night, is batting .302 (29-for-96) with six homers and 18 RBIs over his last 24 games. Hannahan has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games, batting .429 (18-for-42) with a homer and 10 RBIs over the stretch.

The offense is expected from Santana, who began the season hitting in the cleanup spot, but not Hannahan — a defensive-minded third baseman with a career batting average of .224 in two seasons prior to this year.

“I’m just doing what the pitcher allows me to do and not trying to do too much,” said Hannahan, who was the only Indian with a multihit game, going 3-for-4.

Every player in Cleveland’s lineup save Shelley Duncan, who was replaced after being hit by a pitch in the sixth, had at least one hit.

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Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.