It was a bad news day in Cleveland on Monday, but a united team effort earned the Indians a 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
As the team’s struggling starting pitching staff suffered another blow with the loss of ace Shane Bieber to a right shoulder strain, rookie right-hander J.C. Mejia did his part to ease the burdens of the rotation, then was backed up by four solid efforts out of the bullpen to hold on to a close victory.
The Indians jumped out in front quickly in the first, with some help from the Orioles after a nearly hour-long rain delay. Taking on winless Dean Kremer, Cesar Hernandez started the home half of the first with a single to left. After review, it was determined Amed Rosario was hit by a pitch on the hand, bringing Baltimore skipper Brandon Hyde out of the dugout in anger and eventually leading to his ejection. A wild pitch moved both runners up and Jose Ramirez lofted a fly ball to left. D.J. Stewart slipped on the wet turf, allowing Hernandez to score and both runners to get into scoring position. Eddie Rosario followed with another fly ball to left. Stewart stayed on his feet but had to put his back into the left field wall to reel in the sacrifice fly as Cleveland took a 2-0 lead, and Bobby Bradley slapped an opposite field single past third base to score Ramirez with the third run of the inning. The rally ended with the next batter as Harold Ramirez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Mejia used double play balls to get out of the second and third innings, while Kremer set down the Tribe in order in their respective at bats. Things changed for Baltimore in the fourth as they cut deeply into the Cleveland lead. Trey Mancini walked on five pitches and moved to third on a double by Anthony Santander. A pair of groundouts by Stewart and Freddy Galvis pushed across two runs to make it a 3-2 game.
Kremer used a double play ball to get out of the fourth and pitched a perfect fifth, while Nick Sandlin replaced Mejia on the mound for the Indians and retired five in a row with three strikeouts before Bryan Shaw retired Santander to end the top of the sixth.
Cleveland added a key run in the bottom of the inning, knocking Kremer out of the game in an ugly frame for Baltimore. A fielding error at first allowed Hernandez to reach safely to open the inning. He moved to second on a passed ball, but was held up there on a groundout by A. Rosario. Tyler Wells came on in relief and could have retired J. Ramirez on a foul ball, but it was dropped by second baseman Stevie Wilkerson in foul territory. Ramirez made the O’s pay for the mistake, doubling in Hernandez to give the Indians a 4-2 lead. E. Rosario moved his teammate to third on a grounder to second, but Bradley struck out swinging to leave a runner 90 feet away.
The O’s got a run back in the top of the seventh. Shaw walked the leadoff man Stewart before getting a pair of flyouts. Pedro Severino worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 before walking to keep the inning alive. Maikel Franco pinch-hit for Wilkerson and singled to right to score Stewart to make it a 4-3 game. Cleveland manager Terry Francona called on James Karinchak, who got Pat Valaika to fly to right to leave a pair.
Wells retired the side in order for Baltimore after the stretch before the Orioles gave Karinchak a scare in the eighth. The pesky Cedric Mullins drew a leadoff walk and stole second. Mancini struck out looking for the first out and Santander was cut down swinging for the second out. Mullins swiped third, a potentially dangerous situation with the curveball-heavy Karinchak on the mound, but he went exclusively with fastballs afterwards and punched out Stewart to leave the tying run at third.
Tanner Scott needed eight pitches to set down the Tribe in the eighth before Emmanuel Clase took over looking for his tenth save in eleven chances. He needed three pitches to strike out Galvis swinging on a filthy cutter in. Three pitches later, Ryan Mountcastle suffered a similar fate, cut down on a cutter low and away for the second out. Clase got the first two strikes on Severino before missing out on an immaculate save on a slider just low and out of the zone, but three pitches later, he got the Orioles backstop to ground to A. Rosario at short to seal the one-run win.
The Indians improved to 35-28 on the year while evening the season series between the two clubs at two wins each. The O’s road woes continued, as Baltimore (22-43) dropped its 16th straight road contest to fall to 11-22 away from Maryland this season.
Mejia gave the Tribe four innings on the mound, lasting 55 pitches. He allowed a pair of fourth inning runs on four hits, walking one and striking out three in the no-decision. The Indians bullpen worked five innings of one-run, one-hit baseball behind him, with Sandlin earning his first MLB win after retiring all five men that he faced.
Kremer dropped to 0-6 on the season, giving up four runs (three earned) on four hits with no walks, one hit batter, and two strikeouts.
Prior to the game, the Indains placed Bieber on the injured list with a right shoulder strain and recalled left-hander Kyle Nelson from Triple-A Columbus.
Game two of four from Progressive Field is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch. Cal Quantrill (0-2, 3.21 ERA) will jump back into the rotation to make the start on Tuesday against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey (3-7, 7.41 ERA).
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