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Sabathia makes grade, helps Indians beat A's

CLEVELAND -- C.C. Sabathia joined the Red Sox' Boston's Josh Beckett as the majors' only 11-game winners and finally beat his hometown team again, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics last night.

Sabathia (11-2) allowed nine hits in his second complete game this month to improve to 2-5 in 12 career starts against the A's, the team he pulled for as a kid growing up in Vallejo, Calif.

The lefthander had been 0-4 vs. Oakland since last beating the A's on July 30, 2003.

Sabathia struck out eight and didn't walk a batter, continuing an impressive run of great control and command of his pitches. In his last 14 starts, Sabathia has walked only 11 and not more than one in any outing. He has 89 strikeouts over the same span.

"He's become a true No. 1 pitcher," Indians manager Eric Wedge said, "and one of the best in the game."

Ryan Garko drove in two runs with a fourth-inning double off Chad Gaudin (6-3), and Travis Hafner homered for Cleveland, just 11-12 in June.

With Sabathia clinging to a one-run lead, the Indians added two in the eighth on RBI singles by Jhonny Peralta and pinch-hitter Jason Michaels.

Oakland has lost a season-high four straight, and seven of nine overall.

The A's threatened in the ninth, getting runners to second and third with two outs before Sabathia struck out Mark Kotsay looking on his 111th pitch to end his 14th career complete game.

Sabathia gave up two runs in the second but then shut down the A's on two hits over the next seven innings. He got Oakland to bounce into three double plays, and at one point he retired 13 in a row -- five on strikeouts.

In June, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA and he has pitched nine innings three times.

Garko's two-run double over Kotsay's head in center put the Indians ahead 3-2 in the fourth.

With two outs, Hafner singled to center and Peralta walked before Garko, batting .118 since June 1, delivered in the clutch for the Indians, who scored just six runs while dropping two of three in Washington last weekend.

Gaudin gave up three runs and six hits over six innings.

Hafner's first homer in 68 at-bats since May 31 brought the Indians to 2-1 in the second.

Hafner, who has been in a prolonged slump, drove a 1-2 pitch to right for his 11th homer. The hard-hitting designated hitter, who insists he has not been distracted by having contract talks broken off between his agent and the club.

Hafner can become a free agent after next season.

Following the game, A's outfielder Nick Swisher wrote: "Team meeting, 5 p.m." on the message board in the clubhouse. Oakland has scored just five runs during its losing streak.

"The other team is just scoring more runs than we do, so we lose," first baseman Dan Johnson said. "It's that simple."