CLEVELAND — Stuck in one of their longest offensive droughts of the season, the Baltimore Orioles finally broke through with two runs in the sixth inning Sunday afternoon.
And that was plenty of support thanks to starter Kevin Gausman and three Orioles relievers, who limited the Cleveland Indians to two hits in a 4-1 victory at Progressive Field.
The Orioles (70-52) picked up their 70th win — something they didn’t do until Aug. 25 last year — and avoided a sweep by the Indians (62-61).
Entering Sunday’s sixth, the Orioles had scored just once in 25 innings in the series and hadn’t scored at all since Friday’s eighth inning — a span of 17 scoreless frames.
Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar, who had just been recalled from Class AAA Columbus, took a three-hit shutout into the sixth. Two batters later, he was out of the game and had to watch from the dugout as his potential win turned into a loss.
Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce led off the sixth inning with a double, and center fielder Adam Jones then was hit by a pitch.
Indians Manager Terry Francona decided to pull Salazar (4-6) after 91 pitches — the 24-year-old had thrown 96 pitches in his last start for Columbus and 95 in an earlier start for the Indians this month — to bring in right-handed reliever Scott Atchison.
The move backfired.
Atchison picked up two outs before J.J. Hardy singled to right field to score Pearce and tie the game at 1.
Then Chris Davis, who was 2 for 22 in his previous six games, lined an opposite-field double down the left field line to score Jones with the go-ahead run.
Pearce added a key run in the seventh. His homer, estimated at 390 feet, was Pearce’s 12th on the season and first since July 10. Jonathan Schoop added his 12th homer to lead off the ninth, a 412-foot blast to center field.
Gausman (7-4) and the Orioles’ bullpen handled the rest, guaranteeing that the Orioles wouldn’t be swept in Cleveland for the first time since 2011.
Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller (three strikeouts) and Zach Britton (26th save) each threw a scoreless inning in relief of Gausman, who allowed just two hits but matched his career high with four walks.
Gausman’s outing started shakily. He walked two of the first three batters he faced, including Michael Brantley on four pitches.
The lone run he gave up in the fourth seemed avoidable. With one out, Carlos Santana hit a potentially catchable fly ball to left field that Delmon Young chased but failed to track down.
The Orioles’ right-hander lasted six innings, and only two of them were clean. He threw only 51 of his 91 pitches for strikes, but he kept getting key outs when he needed them the most.
— Baltimore Sun