CLEVELAND -- These are truly the dog days of summer for the Indians, and not just because Progressive Field was mostly quiet with the exception of scattered barks and yelps on Wednesday night.
Those were not members of the Dawg Pound celebrating the return of another season for the Browns, but dogs accompanying their owners for the Indians' annual Puppypalooza promotion. All on hand saw Cleveland suffer a 8-4 loss at the hands of the A's, spoiling a quality effort from rookie starter Corey Kluber.
August can't end soon enough for the Tribe.
"It's incredibly hard," Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano said. "I don't think there's going to be a happier team in Major League Baseball to see August go."
The defeat dropped the Indians' record to 5-22 for the month, marking the worst showing in baseball this August. This is only the fourth time in the team's 112-year history that the Tribe has lost at least 22 games in a single calendar month. The Indians lost 23 in August of 1910 and '38, and 24 in July of 1914.
Dating back to July 27, when Cleveland sat 3 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central, the ballclub has gone 5-26 due to shaky starting pitching and suspect offense. Lately, it has been the lineup that has been the primary culprit for the Tribe, which has lost 13 of 14 games.
The Indians now sit only two games ahead of the Twins for the worst record in the AL.
"A month ago, we were in the thick of it," Pestano said. "And now 30 games later, we can't even sniff the second Wild Card. That's just brutal. There's no real words that I know to convey just how upset [we are]. You can say, 'We're a better baseball team than this,' but we're not. We're not showing it.
"When you go on a stretch like this, this is where we're at. This is the team we have right now. We need to find a way to win with it or we'll continue on stretches like this."
Kluber turned in an admirable effort for the Indians, limiting Oakland to four runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked none in the 98-pitch performance, but was dealt a loss due to a lack of support. The Indians have scored just 15 runs in the last 10 games.
The good news was that Cleveland did score.
The same could not be said of the Indians in the previous two games, or the past three games played against the A's. Lefties Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone helped send Cleveland to shutout losses on Monday and Tuesday, and southpaw Travis Blackley tried to follow suit on Wednesday.
Oakland's pitching is a main reason behind the team being in the postseason hunt.
"As much as we would like to point out our offense," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "those guys, they have a very good pitching staff. They're top three in the league [in ERA] and they're tough. We can see why they're playing the way they're playing."
In the third inning, Jason Donald broke a 24-inning scoreless drought with a leadoff home run to put the Tribe on the board. Ezequiel Carrera then delivered a triple and later scored on a groundout from Jason Kipnis. Donald and Carrera gave Cleveland its first back-to-back extra-base hits since Aug. 5.
Unfortunately for the Tribe, those two runs were all the offense against Blackley, who picked up the win after turning in 5 2/3 frames. The lefty struck out five, yielded three hits, walked two and hit one batter in his outing. Cleveland later scored two runs off the A's bullpen in the eighth inning.
The only other fireworks came in the first inning.
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was ejected from the contest for angrily arguing a strikeout. Blackley threw a 3-2 breaking pitch low and inside, but home-plate umpire Gary Darling ruled it a strike. Cabrera shouted and pointed in Darling's face, and was tossed from the game as a result.
"It's unfortunate," Acta said. "Clearly, everybody knows that [Darling] missed the pitch."
Josh Donaldson put the A's on the board in the fourth inning, when he crushed a pitch from Kluber over the left-field wall for a three-run home run. In Acta's eyes, that was Kluber's only real misstep.
"I'm very encouraged by the way he threw the ball," Acta said. "The only mistake that he made was that he hung that slider on 3-2 for the three-run homer."
Oakland tacked on a run in the sixth by taking advantage of a pair of miscues by the Cleveland infield.
With one out and a runner on first base, Donaldson reached on a missed catch at second base by Donald, who was gearing up to turn a possible double play. Josh Reddick sprinted from first to third on the play and later scored when first baseman Matt LaPorta hesitated to throw to the plate on a groundout from Derek Norris.
The A's padded their lead with a pair of runs off rookie reliever Cody Allen in the seventh and two more off Pestano in the ninth. Pestano, in particular, was furious over allowing Oakland to pull away late.
"It's pretty embarrassing," he said. "I'm just not being able to locate anything. I'm having no feel for either pitch. It's getting pretty old."
The losing has been getting a little old, too.
"I'm really ready for August to be over," Pestano said.