Records: Baltimore 24-22, Cleveland 23-26
The Orioles summoned the Glowing Orange of Belly Fire™ to burn down the Indians' House tonight. The Indians attempted to douse the flames with the gasoline-breathing, twin-headed dragon of atrocious defense and a weary bullpen. Things didn't work out too well for our boys, and they fell juuuuust a bit short of winning their fifth in a row.
Though the Indians defense was as bad as we've come to expect it, it would be disingenuous to not credit Orioles hitters with a fine performance. Chris Davis and Nick Markakis owned Tribe pitchers tonight, going a combined 6-9 with 4 RBI. Defensive mistakes are only an issue if you opponent capitalizes and capitalize Baltimore did, scoring three runs after what should have been an inning-ending double play in the 7th. On the other side of the well-worn coin, Orioles pitching did just enough to keep Tribe hitters at bay despite a valiant attempt by Jason Giambi to silence his critics.
T.J. House had a lot riding on his first Major League start. The Indians were on a four-game win streak coming into tonights game, but had stretched the bullpen to the max in back-to-back 13-inning outings. It was up to House to not only eat some innings to give the bullpen a break, but also provide a quality start to keep the momentum going. Unfortunately, only one of those things was (sort of) in the cards for the youngster tonight.
House started out sharp, inducing a double play and striking out a batter after giving up a leadoff single in the 1st. Things got rocky quickly, though. Nelson Cruz led off the Orioles' 2nd with a homer, and he gave up two more in the 3rd thanks to a singe, a hit batter, and a double by Chris Davis. The Indians were down 3-0 and the bats were silent until the top of the 4th.
Michael Brantley led off the inning with a single, and he was doubled home bot the hot-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall on a ball that very nearly left the yard. With two on and one down, Jason Giambi did long-term damage to the team by justifying his roster spot with a 3-run bomb, putting the Indians ahead 4-3. Unfortunately, Tribe bats were essentially silent for the rest of the game. Orioles bats kept on making noise, and so did their insufferable crowd with that inane "Seven Nation Army" chant.
The leadoff man reached base in the Baltimore 5th, setting the table for a two-run bomb by Chris Davis on a hanging slider from House. Davis shouldn't have been a factor in this game. It's clear that he intentionally prevented his wife from having their baby so he could provide it one more day's in-vitro nourishment in the form of Cleveland misery.
House muddled through the rest of the 5th unscathed and pitched a 1-2-3 6th before departing with Baltimore up 5-4. He finished with five earned runs and just one strikeout - a decent debut effort, but it came on a night when the Indians perhaps needed a superhuman effort. Mark Lowe came on in relief for the 7th, and the game quickly fell apart. Adam Jones doubled with one out, and Lowe wisely IBB'd Davis. Nelson Cruz hit a sharp grounder right back to Lowe, a tailor-made double play ball that would have ended the inning and kept the Tribe within one. Instead, Lowe threw the ball into the ground far to the right of Justin Sellers covering second. The ball skipped into the outfield allowing Jones to score. and everyone else to move up two bases. Davis scored on an RBI groundout from J.J. Hardy, and Cruz scored on a double by Delmon Young, who is inexplicably still playing Major League baseball.
Carlos Carrasco pitched a scoreless 8th for the Tribe and Carlos Santana doubled in the 9th, his only bright spot in another otherwise abysmal game. Aside from that, the final two innings were uneventful, as the Indians went down without the slightest fight.
This was an ugly, frustrating game, but it wasn't the worst game ever. After two 13-inning games in a row, you sort of expect a lackluster performance, and I think it could have been worse. The fact that the Indians only had to use two relievers tonight is a big positive. The only troubling thing is that the defensive miscues continued. Though there was only one official error committed by the Indians, there were several grounders that should or could have been turned into double plays that just didn't get turned. In the short term, let's chalk this one up as an unremarkable loss and hope that the team that won four in a row prior to this one is the real Indians team.
Looking at the bigger picture, though the Indians fell to three games under .500. If it even matters at this point, they also fall another game back of Detroit, who crushed Texas tonight. With two more games to go in the series, let's hope we can get back on track with a slightly rested bullpen and get it done.
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