CLEVELAND -- Salvage a "bearable trip." That was A's manager Bob Melvin's plan heading into Thursday's series finale at Progressive Field, which followed a 16-inning marathon that ended just 12 hours before and marked the culmination of an eventful 10-game road swing.
Thanks to a sturdy seven-inning effort from lefty Gio Gonzalez, along with more than enough run support, mission accomplished.
The A's exited Cleveland owners of a 7-0 victory, avoiding a potential four-game sweep at the hands of the Indians and concluding their journey on the other side of the country with a 4-6 mark.
"I would have liked one more [win] at some point, but based on losing five in a row, we needed that one," Melvin said. "It makes the flight a lot better. You always want to try to play .500 on the road, and the way we came out of New York and Boston, we felt like we had a chance to do it. Just came up one game short somewhere along the trip to play .500."
It was a voyage that spanned a total of 33 hours and 50 minutes of baseball, along with five hours and 29 minutes of rain delays courtesy of Hurricane Irene. So despite five more hours worth of air travel awaiting the team following the win, home never sounded better.
"Very excited," Cliff Pennington said.
Across the room from Pennington stood a satisfied Gonzalez, who struck out seven in the effort and gave up just four hits with four walks, stranding a total of seven on base while improving to 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA in six career starts against the Indians, who failed to move a runner past second base with the lefty on the mound.
The left-hander's seventh and final inning proved telling, as he escaped a jam with runners on first and second despite losing steam, which helped save a taxed bullpen that worked 10 innings on Wednesday.
"That was big for us today," Melvin said. "It looked like he was tiring a bit at the end, but we really needed him to give us seven. The last outs of the seventh were big."
"The whole time in my head, I was just thinking, 'I need to push it as far as I can,'" Gonzalez said.
The A's southpaw, whose scoreless streak against the Tribe now stands at 27 2/3 innings, was worked for 114 pitches on the day before reliever Craig Breslow was called upon for two scoreless frames to secure the shutout, the club's eighth of the season and third on the road.
"Gio's just focused again, locating and getting ahead," Melvin said. "With his stuff, it's key. He's throwing his changeup a bit more in off counts, another pitch the hitters have to think about. He's using it not only enough but in some key counts to get some outs with it."
At the plate, Pennington continued his strong second-half surge, collecting his third career four-hit game while also tallying three RBIs. The A's shortstop went 17-for-42 (.405) with 10 RBIs on the trip, which upped his season average to .272.
It was fitting, then, that Pennington was responsible for getting things going against Tribe righty Fausto Carmona in the fifth inning of a scoreless game. Pennington drove home the first of two runs in the frame, which also saw Coco Crisp notch an RBI single as the A's jumped ahead, 2-0.
"I'll tell you what," Melvin said. "You add up Cliff's numbers on this road trip, and he's had a lot of big hits. [He's] just another guy who has really raised his average here in the second half and taken on a leadership role here, as well."
The process, Pennington insisted, has been rather simple.
"Just trying to have good at-bats, swing at strikes," he said. "I'm seeing the ball well."
In the seventh, rookie Anthony Recker collected his first career double. After Eric Sogard reached on a base hit, Recker came around to score on Jerad Head's fielding error in left field on Jemile Weeks' shallow fly ball.
That marked the end for Carmona, who was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts in six-plus innings.
But the A's weren't done for the day, as Hideki Matsui extended the club's lead to four in the same inning against lefty Nick Hagadone with a sacrifice fly. Oakland then posted a three-spot in the eighth -- highlighted by Pennington's two-run double and another RBI hit from Crisp.
Oakland's seven runs nearly matched the total of nine it had combined to score over its previous five games, all losses.
"It's fun to watch these guys go out there, trying to keep me in the game, and then me go out and do the same thing, keep them in the game," Gonzalez said.
The A's now return to their home turf to begin a six-game homestand against the Mariners and Royals, two clubs that will have to respond to reliever Grant Balfour's strong mantra.
"We're unbeatable in September, boys," the A's righty said, smiling.