CLEVELAND -- Before analyzing the A's 6-2 loss Sunday, manager Bob Geren tipped his cap to the opposition.

While the A's were packing up for their trip to Boston, the Indians were celebrating their American League Central title.

"Obviously, I give congratulations to the Cleveland Indians," Geren said. "Their front office did a great job. [Manager] Eric Wedge is a friend of mine so I'm happy for him. You could feel the excitement in the air for them."

The A's didn't make the weekend easy for the new division champs. Oakland dropped a tough 4-3 decision Friday night before rolling to a 9-3 win Saturday night.

Dallas Braden, pressed into service Sunday when it was decided Rich Harden wouldn't make the start, allowed six runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.

"We gave up some runs early," Geren said.

Braden (1-8) allowed two runs in the second and four in the fourth. The left-hander struck out three, walked two and threw 68 pitches.

Oakland's only offense against Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook came on Daric Barton's two-run homer in the sixth. It was Barton's second homer since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Sept. 10.

The A's threatened with two outs in the eighth against Rafael Perez. Shannon Stewart singled and moved to third on Barton's double, but Rafael Betancourt struck out Nick Swisher on a 3-2 pitch.

"We fought back," Geren said. "We had Swisher up and [Jack] Cust on deck. You've got to like the effort of our guys."

Braden pitched around Grady Sizemore's infield hit in the first, but gave up two runs in the second. After a walk to Ryan Garko and a single by Jhonny Peralta, Braden threw a wild pitch with Jason Michaels batting. That proved costly when Michaels' weak groundout to second scored Garko. Sizemore's two-out single made it 2-0.

Braden retired the side in order in the third, but ran into big trouble the following inning. Singles by Peralta and Michaels started the rally. A fly ball moved Peralta to third before Casey Blake's double scored both runners. Sizemore's RBI triple and Asdrubal Cabrera's run-scoring single made it 6-0 and ended Braden's day.

Braden didn't second-guess his pitch to Blake in which he tried to take something off his fastball.

"I struck him out on that pitch the at-bat before [in the second inning]," Braden said. "He's a good offspeed hitter. I left it up a little. If it was an inch or two lower, it's probably a ground ball, but it didn't work out that way."

"I felt good," Braden said. "They hit one ball hard, maybe two."

Braden's only win came in his first start of the season when he beat Baltimore on April 24. He has lost eight straight since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento for the fifth time this season.

Geren thinks Braden needs to stay away from big innings to be successful, but has seen enough from the lefty to consider him for another start before the season ends.

Braden's looking forward to another chance to continue his education.

"It's imperative to learn at this level rather than to learn at Double-A or Triple-A," Braden said.

Barton was 2-for-4 with a double and a homer. He has reached base safely in all 13 games he has played in and has a seven-game hitting streak.

"He hit that homer into the wind," Geren said. "He's very young, but there's no doubt he'll get better."