The Orioles followed nearly the same formula as Friday night as they spotted starter Kevin Gausman with a three-run lead and his strong outing pushed Baltimore past the Cleveland Indians easily on Saturday night, 5-2.
Had it not been for a brief rally in the ninth, the Indians would have been shut out on a night the offense could not figure out Gausman or the Orioles’ bullpen.
The Indians tried and failed to score in the first, squandering a tailor-made opportunity after Carlos Santana led off the inning with a double. But back-to-back strikeouts by Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor put the inning in jeopardy. Mike Napoli drew a walk, but Jose Ramirez lined sharply to Manny Machado at third to end the top half of the inning.
The Orioles capitalized on a missed double play by the Indians in the bottom half to jump out to a big lead against Josh Tomlin. Adam Jones singled to right and one out later, Machado did the same, moving Jones to third. Chris Davis hit a grounder to Kipnis in the shift. He threw to Lindor at second for the first out, but Lindor’s turn was not in time to nail the hustling Davis for the third out. The runner Jones scored and the inning stayed alive for Mark Trumbo, who sent his 30th homer of the season over the wall in right to give the O’s a 3-0 lead.
It would be enough for Gausman, who sailed through the game and dodged any Indians threats with the help of his defensive friends. Cleveland wasted a one-out walk by Santana in the third. After Ramirez ended a mini-slump at the plate with a single to center with one out in the fourth, Lonnie Chisenhall grounded into a double play. Rajai Davis’ one-out single in the fourth met the same fate as Roberto Perez grounded into a twin killing to end that inning. Santana led off the sixth with a walk, but was erased on a 6-4-3 turn off of the bat of Kipnis to squash that effort.
Tomlin settled in after the rough start, giving up a leadoff single to J.J. Hardy in the second before retiring ten straight Orioles hitters. He allowed a pair of two-out singles in the fifth, but ended the sixth by striking out Davis and Trumbo and had at that point supplied the Indians with a quality start. He returned for the seventh and Pedro Alvarez destroyed a baseball, relocating it somewhere in orbit over the right field wall to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead and to end the night for Tomlin.
Jeff Manship relieved, but did not have an easy outing. Hardy singled to start things off before a strikeout by Nolan Reimold. Caleb Joseph singled and both runners moved up a base on a ground out to third by Jones for the second out. One out away from keeping it a four-run deficit, Jonathan Schoop reached on an infield single to score Hardy and make it a 5-0 game.
After being set down in order by reliever Mychal Givens in the eighth, the Indians faced off against All-Star reliever Brad Brach. Kipnis and Lindor each singled to start the inning before a strikeout by Napoli. Ramirez fouled out to first for the second out. Staring down their last chance, Chisenhall doubled to right, scoring both base runners to end the shutout and keep some hopes alive. Buck Showalter, not tempting the baseball gods, called upon his All-Star closer Zach Britton, who got a grounder to short to end the game with his second consecutive one-out save.
The Indians (56-40) dropped a second straight game and have now lost four times in five tries against the Orioles (56-40) this season. At an even 4-4 now on their road trip, the Indians are tied with the Orioles for the top record in the American League.
SEASON NUMBERS DECEIVING FOR GAUSMAN
Looking past his record, Gausman (2-7, 3.77 ERA) has had plenty of good outings this year for the Orioles and Saturday was another, as he received the run support that had been lacking for him for stretches of the season.
Gausman provided the Orioles with seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and three walks in that span while throwing a season-high 116 pitches. He notched seven strikeouts on the night to earn just his second victory of the year in 17 starts.
LONG BALLS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES HURT TOMLIN
The home run ball has been an enemy for Tomlin (10-3, 3.48) all season, but the two-run shot from Trumbo changed the course of what was then a 1-0 game. It was aided by the Indians’ inability to turn a double play that would have ended the first inning and left the game scoreless at the time.
Despite the early hole, Tomlin settled in and did what he almost always does – gave the Indians plenty of depth, salvaging a depleted bullpen from additional work. Tomlin pitched into the seventh, giving up a solo home run to Alvarez to lead off the frame before his exit without retiring a batter. He allowed four runs (all earned) on seven hits. He issued no walks and struck out eight.
BRITTON’S SAVE STREAK
With the easy save in the ninth, Britton has now converted each of his first 32 save opportunities to start the season, matching the effort of Detroit’s Willie Hernandez in 1984 for the longest such streak to start a season in MLB history by a left-hander.
NO BUENO FOR NAPOLI
With two more strikeouts in three at bats and four plate appearances on Saturday night, Napoli is now 0-for-7 in the series with six strikeouts and one walk.
URIBE NOT IN THE STARTING LINEUP
Indians third baseman Juan Uribe, who was hit in the head with a fastball from Odrisamer Despaigne on Friday, was out of the lineup and limited to a pinch-hit appearance in the top of the ninth.
The game was halted for a curious 14-minute rain delay at the end of the third inning as light showers sprinkled through the Baltimore region, despite what otherwise appeared to be clear skies.
Cleveland will try to avoid the sweep and come home with a winning road trip on Sunday afternoon. Francona will send Corey Kluber (9-8, 3.42) to the mound in search of the needed victory. The Orioles will counter with right-hander Vance Worley (2-1, 3.16).
Game time for the season finale between the two clubs is scheduled for 1:35 PM ET from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images