video thumbnail

CLE@BAL: Asdrubal pads the lead with a three-run shot

BALTIMORE -- The baseball that soared off Asdrubal Cabrera's bat, and sailed well beyond Camden Yard's right-field wall and into the Baltimore night, brought an immediate sense of relief to a Cleveland club that has labored of late.

The seventh-inning shot released some pressure within the Indians' dugout and helped turn a close ballgame into a waltz to the win column. Cleveland's 7-2 victory over the Orioles on Thursday was much needed for a ballclub that has been searching for its path the past week.

"It feels good," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Every win feels good, man. And every loss stings the same, regardless of how many there are. It's good to just snap out of it."

The primary issues recently have been a lack of pop in the lineup, inconsistent starting pitching and woeful middle relief. That trifecta of troubles led to a 1-5 mark through Houston and New York before the team's charter landed in Baltimore. The Yankees swept the Tribe in the Bronx, leaving the club discouraged.

On this evening, the Tribe launched three home runs, received a solid start from right-hander Zach McAllister and saw its bullpen slam the door on Baltimore's bats over the final few frames. And they did so after holding a closed-door team meeting a few hours before the game began.

Finally, everything seemed to come together again.

The win halted a season-worst five-game losing streak for the Indians (38-37), who remain 2 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox in the American League Central. The seven runs were the most by the Tribe in a road game since plating nine against Detroit on June 6. Cleveland had not belted three homers on the road since doing so against Minnesota on May 15.

Raising morale a bit more, Cleveland accomplished much of this against a left-handed starter.

The Orioles (41-34) threw lefty Wei-Yin Chen (7-4) at the Indians, who will see two more southpaws before heading home to Cleveland Sunday night. Run production against lefties has been a glaring weakness for the Tribe, which is now just 6-16 when the opposing starter happens to throw with his left hand.

All of that mattered little on Thursday night.

"They hit a couple pretty good pitches," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But every mistake we made, they were on it, it seemed like."

The Tribe's push began in the second inning, when Johnny Damon drilled a 1-0 pitch from Chen over the right-center field wall for a three-run home run. Shin-Soo Choo kept things rolling by slicing a 1-1 pitch from Chen out to left field for a solo shot in the fifth, putting the Indians ahead, 4-0.

Armed with that cushion, McAllister (2-1) went to work in his return to the Cleveland rotation. The Indians summoned the right-hander from Triple-A Columbus before the game to replace righty Jeanmar Gomez, who was sent down after posting a 7.92 ERA in his last six outings for the Tribe.

In his fifth start of the year for the Indians, McAllister pitched into the sixth inning and held the Orioles to two runs on seven hits. With a strong fastball and a sharp curve, McAllister struck out six and walked one in his 5 2/3 frames. His only blemish was a two-run homer by J.J. Hardy in the fifth.

McAllister was proud that he was able to help stop the losing skid.

"It's exciting," the rookie said. "I knew that they lost a few coming into it. I was definitely just going to go out and try to compete and do my best to help the team get a win and get them back on track. It's definitely exciting to be back up and get off to a good start."

With two outs and a runner on second base, side-armer Joe Smith followed in relief of McAllister and induced an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Baltimore's Mark Reynolds. The game seemed to be heading in a direction that would have Cleveland's late-inning specialists forced to make a two-run lead hold up for the win.

That changed with one swing by Cabrera.

Chen bowed out of the contest after surrendering a one-out double to Lou Marson and then issuing a walk to Choo in the seventh. The Orioles handed the ball to Luis Ayala, who then watched it rocket of Cabrera's bat for a three-run homer -- the shortstop's 10th blast of the year -- that put the Indians ahead, 7-2.

"Cabrera just topped it off for us," Damon said with a smile.

That allowed Acta to give his regular bullpen stoppers another day off. Hard-throwing right-hander Esmil Rogers tamed the Orioles over the final two innings and Cleveland regained a bit of the confidence that took a beating in the Bronx.

Acta was jokingly asked if he will consider holding more team meetings.

"Yeah, 4:30 tomorrow," he quipped.

Damon -- a veteran of 18 seasons -- said the Indians know what is at stake.

"We understand what needs to be done," Damon said. "The most important thing with the meeting is to understand slumps happen in this game. This one's not going to be the last one we have all year. We need to stay strong and stay together. If we can do that, we'll keep competing."

MLB.com Comments