BALTIMORE (AP) – The bullpen gate kept swinging open, unleashing one outstanding pitcher after another.
Collectively, Cleveland’s relievers shut the door on Baltimore’s bid to mount one final comeback.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore homered, Lonnie Chisenhall singled in the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning, and the Indians defeated Baltimore 6-5 Friday night to extend the Orioles’ losing streak to nine games – matching Buck Showalter’s longest skid as a big league manager.
Michael Brantley had three hits for the Indians, who improved to 5-0 against Baltimore this season and solidified their grip on first place in the AL Central.
Cleveland blew leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 5-3 before going ahead for good in the sixth against Jim Johnson (5-3). Matt LaPorta ended up on second base with a double after Felix Pie failed to catch his sinking liner to left, and Chisenhall lined an RBI single to right.
Then the Indians bullpen took over, keeping the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.
Chad Durbin and Rafael Perez worked the sixth, Joe Smith took care of the seventh, Vinnie Pestano handled the eighth and All-Star closer Chris Perez finished for his 22nd save in 23 chances.
“You can’t say enough about the bullpen,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “They deserve the whole credit. They shut them down for four innings.”
Smith hasn’t given up an earned run in 27 straight appearances and owns a microscopic 0.80 ERA.
“I don’t know if we’re always this good, but the bullpen’s been one of our strengths,” the right-hander said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who come from a lot of different angles. I think we’ve got a little bit of funk in our bullpen. Nobody throws the same. That’s kind of difficult.”
It certainly was for the Orioles, who got six hits (including three homers) off starter Josh Tomlin (11-4) before being stonewalled by the Cleveland ‘pen.
“They have a number of guys who do what they’re asked to do and get the people out they’re asked to get out,” Showalter said. “And unfortunately where we are, our lineup sets up good for their bullpen the way it’s used.”
The Orioles were without designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, who missed a second straight game with a fractured bone in his right hand. The injury occurred when he was hit by a pitch Sunday in Boston.
As a result, Showalter was left with a very short bench against a very strong bullpen. With the tying run on second base in the ninth, Showalter sent up rookie Blake Davis as a pinch hitter, and Chris Perez got him to foul out.
Despite getting a milestone hit from Nick Markakis and home runs from Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones, the Orioles reached their season high for consecutive losses. Baltimore is 1-14 in its last 15 games.
The only other time Showalter lost nine straight during his 13-year career as a manager was in 2003, with Texas.
Markakis got his 1,000th career hit, a third-inning single that enabled the 27-year-old to become the 14th player to reach the milestone in an Orioles uniform. But it came in another losing effort.
Orioles starter Jake Arrieta allowed five runs, eight hits and three walks in five innings before leaving with the score tied. It was the fourth straight start in which he failed to go more than five innings.
Tomlin became the first major leaguer since 1919 to go at least five innings in each of his first 31 appearances. But he also gave up a career-high three homers.
“Every mistake I made, they put a good swing on it,” he said.
The bullpen, however, was untouchable.
“I don’t like going five, having them cover four innings like that,” Tomlin said. “But they’ve done a great job all year.”
Cleveland went up 1-0 in the second inning when Sizemore doubled and came home on a single by LaPorta. In the bottom half, Wieters led off with his ninth homer and Reimold connected with two outs.
The lead quickly vanished. Brantley led off the third with a single and Cabrera drove a 2-0 pitch into the front row of the left-field seats. It was his 16th homer of the season, the second in two games.
Jones doubled in a run in the Orioles’ half to tie it.
Sizemore put Cleveland ahead in the fifth with a two-run shot to center, but Jones matched that in the bottom half with a no-doubt drive that traveled an estimated 424 feet.
That was Baltimore’s last hit.
“We played a better game than we did last night,” said Jones, referring to an 8-4 defeat on Thursday. “But we still lost. So it’s still the same result to me.”
The Indians have scheduled RHP Jeanmar Gomez to pitch Sunday, but he’s not on the roster. Thus, a player will have to be dropped when he’s added.
… Arrieta remained 5-0 against the AL Central this season.
… Cleveland’s Travis Buck went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.