Jack Cust, the once bright rising star of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, continued to flaunt his power swing in front of a crowd of 22,705 on a cool Saturday afternoon. He hit his fifth home run in six games, providing all of Oakland's highlights in a 6-3 loss to the Indians.
"He hit a pretty good pitch, a 94-mph sinker down and away," manager Bob Geren said of Cust's two-run shot in the first. "That's a good sign when he can take it the opposite way. It means he's harder to scout."
In the last week, Cust has managed to double his career home run totals. He hit five home runs in his first 144 at-bats over 70 games and now has five in his last 22 at-bats over six games.
The A's missed a chance to win three straight for just the second time this season after spotting left-handed starter Dallas Braden a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Oakland had won four of its previous five games and as players came back from the injured list, it appeared the A's were ready to shake free from their usual early-season doldrums.
Instead, the A's fell closer to the break-even point, as they are wont to do in the first two months of the season. Since 1999, the A's are a combined 223-228 (.494) in April and May.
Braden, making his third career start, was the victim of some sloppy fielding in a three-run Indians rally in the fourth. He allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits. Braden (1-2) walked one and struck out two.
"Braden pitched fairly well," said Geren. "He just couldn't quite finish off hitters. Our defense was average, too."
It was a promising start for Braden, who recorded both of his strikeouts in the first inning and then watched from the dugout as Shannon Stewart walked and scored on Nick Swisher's double. Swisher was wiped out on a line-drive double play as Eric Chavez ripped a drive that Jhonny Peralta turned into a twin killing. Dan Johnson singled, extending his career-high hitting streak to 12 games, ahead of Cust's home run.
"I can't get so deep into pitch counts," Braden said. "My fastball wasn't exactly where I wanted it every time I threw it and that [upsets] me a lot. I have to give the team a chance to win."
Braden's routine the past week was out of sync, knowing he would be pitching eight days after his last start, May 4 with Triple-A Sacramento. He didn't use it as an excuse, though.
"It was different, but in a game of adjustments, it's a non-factor," he said. "Give me the ball and I'm ready to throw."
Geren said Braden will remain in the rotation and make his next start on Thursday. He has allowed eight runs on 12 hits over his past two starts after giving up one run on three hits over six innings in his Major League debut.
Braden remains confident he can pitch in the big leagues.
"There's no doubt in my mind," he said. "The first game wasn't a fluke. It's a matter of putting it all together at the right time."
The A's committed three errors, including the first two of the year by catcher Jason Kendall. Chavez also erred, giving Oakland 10 errors in its last nine games.
"The last few [throws] have been tailing up the line, and that's a mechanical thing," Geren said. "I'm sure he'll be working on it. It's back to the basics. This guy is a proven player. It will all work out for him in the end."
Kendall committed two errors in the same game for the first time since Sept. 28, 2001, when he played right field for the Pirates. He made two errors as a catcher only one other time, April 23, 1996.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less