OAKLAND -- If every day of Tyson Ross' 25th year is like his first one, the A's right-hander has much to look forward to.
Ross, making his second start of the season Sunday on his birthday, appeared slightly wired -- blame it on the cake -- and issued five walks, five more than he offered in his last start. But he allowed just four hits and, through 6 2/3 innings, surrendered only one run while helping the A's avoid a sweep with a 5-1 win against the Indians.
"It's funny," Ross said, "I think I always end up pitching on my birthday, and it's the first time in awhile I've gotten a win out of it, maybe other than high school or Little League."
The tall righty, seen scrolling through numerous birthday greetings on his phone following the game, heavily relied on his sinker to navigate his way through jams with ease -- "It's definitely playing with fire, but luckily I didn't get burned today," he said -- and forced Cleveland to strand six on base during his time on the mound.
After giving up back-to-back doubles to Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner in the first, Ross kept the Indians at bay the rest of the way, while his teammates went to work at the plate.
"We had our chances," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We had five leadoff walks and still couldn't do much with it. He kind of buckles up and made some good pitches after that and had us hitting into double plays a few times. He had very good sink on his pitches."
"He always does have that sinker to get him out of jams, and to get him to 100 pitches and into the seventh inning today was important," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "All those are steps in the right direction for him, confidence-wise."
Confidence has abandoned the A's offense at times this season, particularly with runners in scoring position. Oakland entered the day with a Major League-low .168 average in such situations and, on Sunday, stranded 10 on base. But the hits that did come with runners aboard -- the A's tallied three of them -- provided just enough support.
Indians right-hander Justin Masterson also helped out too, walking six in five innings. The first was awarded to Jemile Weeks in the third, and Cliff Pennington's RBI double knotted the game.
In the fourth, Kila Ka'aihue led off with a walk and again the A's capitalized on Masterson's ineffectiveness, as Seth Smith followed with a two-run homer that barely stayed left of the right-field foul pole. It marked Smith's first long ball of the season and snapped a career-high 45-game homerless streak.
Oakland's fourth run came in the fifth, when Ka'aihue singled, advanced to second on a walk to Smith and scored on a Kurt Suzuki single.
Pennington drove in a second run in the eighth on a single to shortstop that brought home Eric Sogard.
"I thought we had some decent approaches today," Melvin said. "You read about it so much, we talk about it, and you almost feel, going to the plate, 'Here's another one of those situations,' and you start grinding on it a little bit harder. We'd like to think each and every time we do come up with runners in scoring position, that the numbers are with us, and we're going to get better and better at it. For the most part you can only hit this low so long, and then you feel like you have a couple owed to you."
Added Pennington: "When you're hitting and the pitcher has runners in scoring position, he's the one with his back up against the wall a little bit. But at the same time, we have to bear down too, and today we did a better job of that, and we're going to have to continue that moving forward to be a good ballclub."
By snapping a two-game losing streak, the A's have now won four of their past six games. For Ross, it was his first victory of the season, and in due time he believes he'll cross off another first.
"I feel like I'm kind of picking up where I left off last year, before the injury," he said. "The deeper I go into games, the more confidence I get, and if I stop walking as many guys and pitch a little smarter, hopefully I'll be pitching complete games here at some point."