CLEVELAND -- Bob Melvin's goal for the rest of the season remains unchanged. It's the same one he had when he arrived in Oakland, the same one every manager lays out, whether playoff-bound or not.
"We're trying to win as many games as we can," Melvin said Tuesday afternoon. "We're focused on winning games, winning series."
The A's have obviously struggled to meet that objective more times than not this year, and on Tuesday, they lost, 6-2, to the host Indians.
The offense, it seems, has gone missing. And for as much as that group has faced its inconsistencies this season, the pitching staff is suddenly dealing with the same problem, having combined for a 7.15 ERA through eight contests of a 10-game road swing.
Right-hander Trevor Cahill, who showcased glimpses of his old self while allowing two runs over six innings in a confidence-boosting outing against the Yankees last week, reverted to his increasingly familiar struggles.
The A's hurler allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings, surrendering seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts along the way in his last start of the month, which concluded without a win. His last victory came on July 27, and he finished August with a 7.15 ERA and an 0-4 record in six starts.
Cahill has not just been inconsistent from start to start but from inning to inning.
"There's just a short period where he gets out of whack a little bit," Melvin said. "I thought his mix of pitches was good. There were times he wasn't as sharp as others, but at times, he was. He has to try to find a consistent period where he's locked in and has a good arm slot and is getting consistent outs."
Cahill didn't agree with his manager's assessment.
"Even in the innings I didn't give up runs, I just felt like I was fighting myself," he said. "When you're doing that the whole game, it's tough to get big league hitters out. I feel like recently, I could command the ball even if I got hit, and today, I just felt like I didn't know where it was going."
Perhaps just on certain pitches?
"All of them," he replied.
Two, in particular, proved damaging.
Kosuke Fukudome's two-run double in the third handed Cleveland a 2-0 lead, and a four-run Indians sixth -- guided by two-run homers off the bats of Carlos Santana and Jack Hannahan -- pushed the Tribe ahead for good.
Cahill was responsible for Santana's blast, which followed Jim Thome's 1,000th walk as a member of the Tribe, while Fautino De Los Santos offered up Hannahan's.
"It was a fastball," Cahill said of Santana's blast. "A guy on first, I got ahead and was trying to throw it low and to the ground, so he would hopefully hit it for a double play to get out of the inning, and I just left it up."
The blast against De Los Santos, who has surrendered six runs in his last 9 2/3 innings, came on a slider.
"Usually, he doesn't hang a slider like that," Melvin said. "He just threw that one down the middle. With his fastball, usually his slider is a chase slider, not a strike slider, and when you're throwing that hard and throwing it for a strike, that's what happens."
And for a fourth straight game -- all of which have resulted in losses -- the A's couldn't get anything going against the opposing starter. This time, it was Tribe righty Jeanmar Gomez who gave up just one unearned run in six innings.
"He gave us a very good outing," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "He gave us an opportunity to put together a couple of runs there. Santana's homer after Thome's walk was huge. Then we tacked on a couple more. That was the story."
Overall, the A's have managed just 24 hits and six runs over their past four contests after combining for 36 runs in their previous 37 innings.
"I don't know," Melvin said. "It's a little bit puzzling because we were swinging so well. Here, we've basically done nothing. We'll search for those answers, but I don't have an answer in particular right now."
Oakland's first run came in the fifth, when Jemile Weeks reached second on a ground-ball forceout that went past Gomez at first base, and Weeks scored on Coco Crisp's single. The A's mounted a stand in the ninth, when David DeJesus walked, moved to third on Cliff Pennington's double and scored on Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice fly. But Pennington became the last of nine men whom the A's left on base, as the club went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
In the midst of an all-too-familiar scene, A's righty Neil Wagner -- once a member of the Indians organization -- provided a highlight, compiling a scoreless eighth inning in his Major League debut, allowing just one hit and striking out one.
"It was pretty cool," Wagner said. "Once I settled down and got into the flow of things a little bit, it was all right. I was overthrowing a little bit, with all the emotions, but I settled in and ended up OK. It's almost a relief to have it over with."
Cahill is likely feeling the same way about the month of August.
"Five more starts," he said. "I'll just try to take them one at a time."