Written by Lee Tackett
The Indians broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fifth with two runs and logged 4.1 scoreless bullpen innings to defeat the Orioles. Baltimore started Zach Britton failed to get out of the fourth inning, but the Birds tied the game in the fifth on a 3 run home run from Manny Machado. The offense stalled, as the O’s only managed one baserunner once the Cleveland bullpen took over.
Zach Britton faced his familiar command issues in the first and the Indians made it hurt. Britton fell behind Michael Bourn to lead off the game, then failed to get to first in time after a great stop by Chris Davis. Four balls later, Nick Swisher was on first with a walk that set up a good bunt from Jason Kipnis to load the bases. Carlos Santana struck out to give Britton some breathing room, but Yan Gomes smoked a line drive into right for the first run of the game. Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to Manny Machado and was unable to get the run in, but Ryan Raburn shot a two out double down the right field line to bring home two more. Mike Aviles seemed to extend the inning with a single through the left side but rocket armed (joke) Nate McLouth cut down Raburn at the plate to keep the deficit at 4-0. The inning was excruciating and illustrated anything a critic has ever said about Britton. He was unable to consistently command his fastball, but when he did it was over the heart of the plate and hit hard.
To his credit, Britton bounced back in the second and struck out two en route to a perfect frame but couldn't continue in the third. Kipnis drew a leadoff walk and a batter later Gomes singled on an 0-2 pitch and it was curtains for the lefty.
Britton's outing was an abject failure. He struggled with his delivery all night, was hittable in the strike zone and couldn't even give the Orioles three innings. The results were particularly concerning given his velocity was consistently 93-94, but he was seldom able to harness the sink on his fastball and balls that stayed up were hammered.
Kevin Gausman entered with a two on, one out jam in the third and struck out Cabrera on a filthy change up then blew away Raburn with a fastball at 99. In the fourth, Gausman allowed a lead off double but turned a Drew Stubbs popped up bunt into a double play, then struck out Bourn to end the inning.
After the offense tied the game in the top half of the frame, Gausman couldn't hold the Tribe down. With one down, he fell behind Kipnis 3-0 before allowing a single through the middle then walking Santana on four pitches. Newest Oriole killer Yan Gomes followed with a run scoring double into the left field corner to put the Indians back up one. Cabrera was given an intentional pass to load the bases. A Gausman wild pitch scored the sixth run but he retired Raburn and Aviles to keep the game at 6-4.
Francisco Rodriguez blew through the sixth with three called third strikes and retired the two he faced in the seventh.
Josh Stinson followed K-Rod with a strike out to end the inning.
Jim Johnson allowed a base runner, but had a scoreless ninth.
The O's got men in scoring position with less than two outs in both the second and third innings, but were unable score.
Adam Jones got the Orioles on the board in the fourth with a solo shot to left field, his 29th.
The offense finally cashed in runners in scoring position in the fifth. J.J. Hardy shot a one out double into the right field corner to start the rally. After a Ryan Flaherty strike out, Brian Roberts worked a five pitch walk. After flailing at a few pitches early in the count, Machado drove a ball up and out just to the left of the Tribe bullpen to tie the game at 4.
Save for a McLouth single in the sixth, the Orioles offense didn't have a base runner against Cleveland's relievers.
-McLouth's throw to the plate in the first was right on the money and saved Britton from what could have been an unrecoverable inning.
-After Britton's negligence cost Davis a web gem in the first, he made a nearly identical diving stop to his backhand side and tossed to the covering Rodriguez for the out.
-The next play, Machado covered half the left side of the diamond from his shifted position to pick up a Santana bunt and fire an off balance throw to first for the out.
The Orioles had hope after the Machado home run, but it was immediately extinguished the following half when Cleveland put two more runs on the board to take the lead for good.
Observations and Musings
-This certainly went both ways, but plate umpire Mike DiMure's strike zone was wildly inconsistent.
-There really isn’t much to say after this road trip. The bullpen threw well, the offense was anemic, and the starting pitching was a let down at times. The White Sox ride a six game losing streak into Baltimore but have three lefties coming to town.
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