OAKLAND A's right-hander Tyson Ross acknowledged he was "playing with fire" by walking the Cleveland Indians' leadoff hitter in four innings Sunday.
It didn't hurt him in a 5-1 A's win, but afterward the starter offered: "I think I'm just going to completely avoid that in the future."
Maybe it's just part of growing up.
Ross turned 25 Sunday and marked the occasion with his first win of the 2012 season, working around a career-high five walks to allow just the one run in 6 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, the A's, who have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position, had three such hits and benefited from outfielder Seth Smith bidding farewell to his career-long streak of 45 games without a home run.
Ross became the first A's pitcher to earn a win on his birthday since Todd Stottlemyre in 1995.
But Ross' teammates may be happier that he helped them avoid being swept by the Indians, who began Sunday 7-1 this season against right-handed starters.
"I seem to always end up pitching on my birthday," Ross said. "I think this is the first time in a while that I've actually gotten a win out of it."
Cleveland's run came in the top of the first, when Travis Hafner doubled off the wall in right-center field to score Shin-Soo Choo, who had doubled off the wall in left-center.
Otherwise, Ross (1-0) pitched himself out of trouble, including the four innings in which he put the leadoff runner on.
Twice, that runner was erased by a double play. In none of those innings did the runner reach third.
Manager Bob Melvin said he actually was impressed by his starter's command and willingness to challenge hitters.
Ross threw 58 of his 101 pitches for strikes, struck out four and got most of his outs on ground balls.
"You certainly don't want to walk five, but he always does have that sinker to get him out of jams," Melvin said. "And to get him to 100 pitches today and get him into the seventh inning, I thought that was important."
As did Ross, who was making his second start this season for Oakland.
"The deeper I go into games, the more confidence I'm going to get," Ross said.
The A's tied the score 1-1 in the third inning when shortstop Cliff Pennington doubled to drive in Jemile Weeks.
In the fourth, after designated hitter Kila Ka'aihue drew a leadoff walk, Smith hit a line drive over the right-field fence for his first home run in an A's uniform and first since Aug. 23 of last year.
Like Ross, Cleveland starter Justin Masterson (0-2) played with fire by walking six in five innings. Unlike Ross, Masterson was burned, as two of those runners scored and he departed after allowing four earned runs in five innings.
The A's added runs in the fifth and eighth innings on two-out singles with runners on second base by catcher Kurt Suzuki and Pennington, respectively. Pennington drove in two runs, one more than he had in 16 games before Sunday.
"When you're hitting and the pitcher's got runners in scoring position, he's the one with his back against the wall a little bit," Pennington said. "The pitcher's trying to bear down, and as a hitter you've got to do the same thing. Today, we did a better job of that."
Pennington's RBI single in the eighth ruled out a save situation, but Oakland closer Grant Balfour came in for the ninth anyway and retired the side in order.