Derek Lowe‘s strong outing turned sour and the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead as the Orioles beat the Indians 9-8 Friday night in Baltimore to even the four-game series at a game apiece. The loss drops the Tribe to 38-38 and 3.5 games behind the division-leading White Sox in the AL Central.
Cleveland got on the board first as Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a single off Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta; Jason Kipnis‘ base hit moved him to third and Michael Brantley‘s RBI single brought him home. But the lead didn’t last long: crucial errors by Casey Kotchman and Asdrubal Cabrera allowed three unearned runs to score in what would have otherwise been a 1-2-3 first inning for Lowe as the Orioles took a 3-1 lead.
The Indians worked their way back in the middle innings. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the third with a solo home run. Then in the fourth, Choo drew a bases-loaded walk and Kipnis came through with a two-run single to put the Tribe back on top, 5-3. But Lowe’s leadoff walk to Robert Andino in the fifth came back to haunt him as a run scored without the ball leaving the infield, and Matt Wieters took him very, very deep in the bottom of the sixth for a three-run homer that gave the Orioles a 7-5 lead.
The teams traded leads for the rest of the game. Back-to-back doubles by Kotchman and Shelley Duncan and a Lou Marson RBI double play tied it up in the top of the seventh, but Ryan Flaherty knocked Joe Smith for an RBI single in the eighth and Chris Perez gave up a home run to Xavier Avery in the ninth. The Indians started to stage a comeback in the ninth—Choo’s two-out RBI single cut Baltimore’s lead to one run and brought the go-ahead run to the plate—but it was not enough as the O’s held on for a 9-8 win.
The Good: What a day it was for the offense. Jake Arrieta isn’t a very good pitcher, but eight runs on 16 hits and six walks is a terrific showing for a lineup no matter what. Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis both had three hits, and Asdrubal Cabrera (2-for-6 with a home run), Casey Kotchman (2-for-5 with a double) and Shelley Duncan (2-for-2 with a double) all had great days at the plate too.
Take away the sixth inning when it was clear that he had run out of gas and Derek Lowe had a pretty good night too. Through his first five innings he allowed only one earned run on three hits and two walks, and of the 16 outs he recorded 12 were via the ground ball. If not for those first-inning errors that made him throw extra pitches Lowe would have had the stamina to go at least six frames and we’d be talking about this game as a quality start.
The Bad: Lonnie Chisenhall took a Troy Patton pitch to his wrist in the fifth inning and broke his ulna bone. We’re not sure what that is, but it sounds extremely painful. It will take him at least a month to get back on the field, and hopefully there won’t be any long-term damage beyond that.
The bullpen also merits mention here. One could have said that Manny Acta should have taken Lowe out earlier, but things didn’t exactly stabilize once the relief corps took over. Jeremy Accardo walked two of the four batters he faced and Joe Smith and Chris Perez both gave up runs—a significant failing in a close game. The ball was jumping pretty well at Camden Yards and the Orioles’ ‘pen got lit up too, but this is becoming a trend for the Tribe.
The “Huh?”: Somewhat surprisingly, Manny Acta turned to Chris Perez with the Tribe losing 8-7 in the eighth inning. Though it didn’t work out, it wasn’t a bad idea—he needed to get his work in, and in a situation like that you want to keep the game close. The curious thing is that Acta generally has a very rigid approach to deploying his closer, and seeing Perez in a non-save situation even in the ninth inning seems like a rarity.
Interesting Tidbit: Friday night was the first time in almost two years that Perez entered a game before the ninth inning. The last time was September 29, 2010, when he entered the second game of a doubleheader with Detroit with two outs in the eighth to preserve the Tribe’s 4-3 lead.