The Streak Goes On as Tribe Sweeps O’s; Indians 3, Orioles 2

Numerous injuries, the weather, a flip of the calendar, a pair of doubleheaders in the span of three days, and even a long road trip have failed to slow down the Cleveland Indians. Baltimore proved incapable of stopping the Tribe either, as the Indians continued their utter dominance of Major League Baseball over the last few weeks by winning their 18th consecutive game, defeating the Orioles by a 3-2 final on Sunday Night Baseball.

National Football League action returned to the Cleveland lake shore earlier in the day, but it was the Indians who would be the day’s victor in town as the Indians took an early lead, responded with big back-to-back homers after the Orioles tied the game, and held on for the win as their impressive streak survived another day. The Indians may have been even more inspired prior to their nationally televised game on ESPN as they undoubtedly were aware that the Houston Astros dropped a fourth straight game in Oakland to the A’s, giving Cleveland a half-game lead for the best record in the American League heading into the final game of the day’s schedule.

Lindor - David Maxwell/Getty Images
Lindor – David Maxwell/Getty Images

The Indians struck early against Orioles right-hander Jeremy Hellickson before their bats went cold on a cool night from Progressive Field. Francisco Lindor doubled on the second pitch of the first, moved to third on a bloop single by Lonnie Chisenhall in front of Adam Jones, and scored on a groundout by Jose Ramirez in his return to the lineup card. The Ramirez out, however, started a string of 15 batters who would be retired in a row by Hellickson.

Bauer had his own struggles in the top of the first, but worked out of things in the first after giving up back-to-back one-out singles to Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop before Jones grounded into a double play. He appeared to get better as the game went on, giving up just a ground rule double in the third to Tim Beckham and a leadoff single in the fourth to Schoop, but otherwise things were quiet from the Orioles.

That would change for Bauer in the sixth. He struck out Beckham swinging to start the inning for his seventh straight batter set down and his third straight on strikes. Machado, who had lost a lengthy battle in the third with Bauer and gave a tip of the cap to the starter, jumped on the first pitch that he saw and doubled to deep right. With the dangerous Schoop at the plate, Bauer threw a wild pitch before the Orioles’ All-Star second baseman singled home Machado to tie the game at one.

Bauer ended the inning with his second double play grounder from Jones, but with two swings to start the home half of the sixth, the 1-1 tie would quickly disappear. Roberto Perez picked up his battery mate and delivered a clutch 3-2 homer just over the wall in left to put the Indians back on top, 2-1. Lindor followed a nearly identical script, fouling off several pitches and breaking his bat before getting new lumber (that of Abraham Almonte) and slugging a monstrous shot to deep right field. The 29th homer of his season extended the Indians lead to 3-1.

Bauer returned for the seventh, but got a quick hook. After getting Trey Mancini to ground out to short, Chris Davis took the Indians’ right-hander the opposite way to left for a solo home run. Joe Smith would come on to protect the one-run lead, getting two outs on two pitches.

Hellickson would be finished after six, bringing Richard Bleier on in relief. The Indians would threaten against him, but could not deliver and would end the inning in far worse shape than when it began. Carlos Santana reached on an infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Yandy Diaz lined out and Bradley Zimmer grounded out to first before an ill-advised head first dive into first base resulted in a violent collision with the ground. While it looked as though Zimmer may have put himself back into concussion observation on the dive, the injury was worse as Zimmer’s left hand was stepped on by Davis, resulting in a break of the fourth metacarpal bone in his hand and putting his season in jeopardy. Darren O’Day would come on with a runner at third and two outs and walked Perez, but was able to retire Lindor on a grounder to second to end the inning.

Tyler Olson and Nick Goody combined for the eighth, shutting down the Orioles. Olson retired pinch-hitter Joey Rickard on a groundout and Goody got Beckham to ground to third before he struck out Machado. Baltimore’s Zach Britton was even more effective than the duo in the Tribe’s half of the eighth, needing just four pitches to induce three ground ball outs from Chisenhall, Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion.

Cody Allen worked the ninth and had a tough group to face while protecting the one-run advantage. Schoop struck out swinging after fouling off several pitches. Jones followed suit and Mancini lined to Jay Bruce in right to end it.

Bauer - David Maxwell/Getty Images
Bauer – David Maxwell/Getty Images

The Indians (87-56) reduced their magic number to seven with the victory and now hold a one-game lead over the Astros for the top record in the AL.

Bauer (16-8) held on long enough to reclaim his spot atop the AL’s leaderboard in wins with his 16th of the season, matching Boston’s Chris Sale and moving within one of Milwaukee’s Zach Davies for the MLB lead. It also gave him nine straight wins in the second half. Bauer took command as the game moved on and carved up the Orioles for seven strikeouts. He allowed just the two runs on seven hits and did not walk a batter in six and one-third innings. Allen’s save was his 26th.

Hellickson (2-4 with Baltimore), making a rare start against the Indians in recent years, worked a quality outing for the Orioles. He allowed three runs on four hits, struck out one, and did not walk a batter in six innings of work.

The Detroit Tigers will come in to town for a three-game weekday set from Progressive Field. The Indians will look to keep the wins coming and will be in good position to do so in the series, with Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, and Mike Clevinger expected to pitch in the three contests in the second of three home series for Cleveland.

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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