The Indians greeted former member of the Tribe, Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez, with a barrage of runs as Cleveland would score runs in six of its eight trips to the plate in an 11-4 thumping of the Orioles on Saturday afternoon from Progressive Field.
The onslaught from the Indians (26-21; .553), aided by four errors by the O’s in the field and a seven-run ninth inning in Kansas City by the Royals over the Chicago White Sox, put Cleveland into sole possession of first place in the American League Central Division for the first time since July 2, 2013. The lead isn’t big; the Royals (26-22; .542) and White Sox (27-23; .540) trail the Indians by one-half of a game. The Orioles (27-20; .574) remain in second place in the AL East behind the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s nice to get out to an early lead and let [Danny Salazar] settle in,” said Indians first baseman Mike Napoli. “We kept the pressure on all game, [Salazar] threw the ball well, and it’s a nice win for us.”
The Indians got to Jimenez immediately in the first, setting the tone for a short outing from the struggling starter. Carlos Santana singled sharply past first base and Jason Kipnis drew a five-pitch walk. Francisco Lindor moved up both runners with a groundout to first and both would score on an error at third base by Pedro Alvarez on a shot to the hot corner from Napoli. Jose Ramirez drew a walk and both he and Napoli advanced 90 feet on stolen bases before an out by Juan Uribe. The thefts would pay off, however, as a two-out single to right from Yan Gomes drove both runners in. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to right but after he stole second base to put two in scoring position with two outs, Rajai Davis struck out looking to end the four-run first.
Tribe starter Salazar had a relatively easy second inning, allowing a leadoff double to Mark Trumbo but no further damage. The Indians got back to work with two outs off of Jimenez, as Lindor singled, stole second, and scored on a single from Napoli. A walk on four straight to Ramirez ended Jimenez’s afternoon, as Vance Worley came on in relief and gave up an RBI-single to Uribe before Gomes grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the rally with the Tribe up 6-0.
Cleveland added another in the third, as Chisenhall doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a single to right from Davis. Santana grounded into a double play, but Chisenhall scored to give Salazar a 7-0 lead to work with.
Salazar worked frequently with traffic on the bases, as he had base runners on in every inning but the third. It cost him in the fourth and fifth, as the O’s tried to cut into the Indians’ seven-spot on the scoreboard. Jonathan Schoop led off the fourth with a single and went to third on a ground rule double by Alvarez. A walk by Joey Rickard loaded the bases before Adam Jones hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate a run. Hyun Soo Kim lined out to Kipnis and Manny Machado struck out to kill the rally with runners standing on the corners.
The Indians got the run back in the bottom of the fifth as Uribe reached on a throwing error from Alvarez and scored on a single from Gomes to make it 8-1. But in the top of the sixth, the Orioles continued to fight, as Trumbo doubled to left and scored on a double by Matt Wieters to make it 8-2.
Tommy Hunter took over for Salazar to start the seventh and got into some trouble against his former club. A walk to Rickard was chased by a double from Jones to make it 8-3. Kim singled Jones to third and Machado drove the run in with a double play grounder to make it an 8-4 ball game.
It would be as close as Baltimore would get as the Indians added two more in the seventh on an RBI-single from Santana that scored Uribe after his leadoff walk and Michael Martinez scored on a throwing error by Wieters. Ramirez singled Lindor home in the eighth off of Ashur Tolliver after the Indians shortstop reached on the fourth error of the day by Baltimore.
Salazar (5-3, 2.39 ERA) pitched with light traffic on the base paths throughout the afternoon, but did not allow the Orioles to put together the big inning while also pitching with the luxury of a big lead early. He allowed two runs on six hits, walked two batters, and struck out five in earning his fifth win of the season. He threw 69 of 107 pitches for strikes.
“Their lineup, they make you work. They’re so big and strong and I know they’re aggressive,” said manager Terry Francona. “If you don’t get in…I think because he wasn’t in a ton he probably had to work harder. Saying that, you look up and he doesn’t give up a lot of runs, even on a day that he didn’t get quite as deep. His stuff is so good.”
“It was a beautiful day outside. When it’s a day like that, you’re expecting to feel like everything’s great, but then you start losing a little control of your delivery,” said Salazar. “I started feeling a little bit tired. When I was in between innings, I was stretching inside and trying to get my feel back. But I finished it strong.
“It was hot. That’s why I took [his undershirt] off. I took it off because it was a little bit too sticky.”
Salazar improved to 3-1 at home this season with a 1.61 ERA.
Jimenez (2-6, 6.36) did not last long in his return to Cleveland, nor did he look good in the process. He retired just five of the 14 batters he faced, seeing all nine hitters in the first inning while giving up four runs and lasting just five before getting the hook with two outs in the second. He was charged with six runs (three earned) on five hits with three walks and one strikeout.
The Indians ran wild early, not so much on catcher Wieters, but more so on Jimenez, who has historically been miserable at holding runners on base. Napoli picked off his second base of the season, Chisenhall his third, Ramirez his fourth, and Lindor his tenth. Santana stole his third off of the Baltimore bullpen in the seventh to give the Indians five on the day.
“It’s one of the things I’m probably most proud of with our guys,” said Francona. “It’s something we talked about from the first day of spring training. I think for a number of reasons the way you run the bases obviously helps a number of ways during the game. I think guys that run the bases correctly, regardless of whether they got hits or not, are the same guys that back up bases. It goes a long way towards how you’re going to play the game and I think our guys have done a really good job in that area.”
By comparison, the Orioles have eight stolen bases in 14 attempts this season.
Baltimore entered the day with the fifth-best fielding percentage in the AL with a .986 mark, but four errors cost them majorly throughout the game. Alvarez, who was 5-for-6 (.833 fielding percentage) in chances in his five starts at third base this season for the Orioles, was charged with a pair of errors in the ball game.
The four errors led to six unearned runs for Orioles pitching.
Trumbo had a single and two doubles in the game on Saturday, giving him five hits in ten at bats in the series so far. He has now hit safely in four straight games and had extra base hits in three straight contests.
NO KIPNIS IN THE HIT PARADE
Nine of the ten Indians players to step to the plate on the day had hits. Only Kipnis, who went 0-for-4, was held hitless, but even he managed to reach base with a walk and later came around to score one of the eleven Cleveland runs on the day.
Chris Gimenez, who entered as a defensive replacement late for Gomes, did not have a plate appearance.
A BALANCED ATTACK
Gomes, Uribe, Santana, and Chisenhall each had two-hit games for the Tribe on Saturday. Gomes drove in three runs, while Lindor, Napoli, and Uribe each scored twice.
CHISENHALL EXITS EARLY
Chisenhall was removed from the game early for precautionary reasons after experiencing some blurred vision.
“When he slid into second, he got a ton of dirt in his eye,” said Francona. “They flushed it out but it was still kinda blurry. I don’t think they feel that it was scratched or anything, but it’s hard to send a guy up to hit when one of your eyes is blurry.”
The game was delayed 22 minutes in the eighth inning by a quick rain shower.
Rookie Mike Clevinger (0-1, 8.71) will make his third MLB start on Sunday against Baltimore’s Chris Tillman (6-1, 2.61). The game’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images