Entering Sunday, the Cleveland Indians (86-56) were winners of 17 games in a row and had not been on the short end of the stick since August 23. That’s impressive. The Baltimore Orioles (71-71) were looking to snap a three-game losing streak and stay in the Wild Card race as September rolls on. And with Minnesota’s loss earlier in the day, the stage was set for the Birds to gain ground.
Appearing on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Jeremy Hellickson made his eighth start for the Orioles and was opposed by Trevor Bauer. Things started ominously for Hellickson with a leadoff double by Francisco Lindor and then a Bermuda Triangle pop single between Tim Beckham, Trey Mancini and Adam Jones. Lindor scored on a soft grounder to second and the Indians led early 1-0.
Hellickson followed in the second and third with three up and three down frames. After two hits to lead off the game for Cleveland, Hellickson had sent down nine in a row and appeared in control. If only the O’s offense could get going.
The O’s had a chance to score in the third with a two-out ground rule double by Tim Beckham, but Manny Machado struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. Machado seemed to smile and nod at Bauer recognizing the effectiveness of the 96mph fastball. Leading off the fourth, Jonathan Schoop singled to center, his second hit of the game, but Jones, Mancini and Chris Davis were all retired.
Through four innings, Hellickson had sent down 12 Indians in a row. After five, it was 15 on only 56 pitches. Hellickson, while aided by some good defense and the wind, was dealing. Unfortunately, Trevor Bauer looked just as good with six strikeouts and zero walks. Entering the sixth, after a crisp slightly less than 90 minutes of baseball, Cleveland held a 1-0 lead.
With one out in the sixth, Manny Machado doubled to right over the head of Jay Bruce. Bruce played the carom off the wall perfectly, threw to second, and Machado was ruled safe on the field and after a video review ordered by Terry Francona. A wild pitch moved Manny to third and Schoop drove him in with a line drive single to left. It was Schoop’s third hit of the night and the game was tied 1-1.
Sixth inning issues
The streak for Hellickson ended in the sixth when Indians catcher and number nine hitter, Roberto Perez, led off the inning with a homer to left. That got the O’s bullpen stirring. After fouling off several pitches and breaking two bats, Francisco Lindor smashed a Hellickson pitch way into the right field seats. Post retiring 15 in a row, Hellickson had given up back to back home runs. It was 3-1 Cleveland.
Hellickson settled down and with two outs and no one on base, Edwin Encarnacion lifted a routine fly to center. Adam Jones moved in on the ball, called off Seth Smith, and it hit off the heel of his glove and fell to the ground. The inning should have been over, but instead Jay Bruce came to the plate. Thankfully, Bruce grounded into the shift and it was on to the seventh inning.
The final frames
After looking bad in his previous at bats against Bauer, Chris Davis connected on a 2-2 pitch with an opposite field homerun to draw the O’s within one run. It was his 24th homer of the year and it’s always good when Davis hits the ball the other way.
The bomb by Crush closed the book on Trevor Bauer who went 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits, two runs, walking zero and striking out seven. Joe Smith, formerly of the Blue Jays, replaced Bauer and on two pitches retired Mark Trumbo and Wellington Castillo.
Richard Bleier replaced Hellickson in the bottom of the inning. Hellickson’s final line was six innings pitched, three runs and four hits allowed, along with one strikeout and zero walks. He threw 88 pitches, and despite the two homeruns allowed, pitched very effectively. Entering Sunday’s game, the Orioles had only scored two runs in the series. Offense has been the problem, not starting pitching.
Carlos Santana singled off Bleier to welcome him to the game and he went to second on a wild pitch. Next, Yandy Diaz hit a soft liner to Schoop and Bradley Zimmer grounded out to Chris Davis for the first two outs. Darren O’Day replaced Bleier and he walked Roberto Perez, following a very questionable check swing call by the first base umpire when the count was 2-2. O’Day then got Francisco Lindor on a grounder that went Schoop to Beckham.
The O’s went down quietly in the top of eighth, and Zach Britton did the same to Cleveland in the bottom of the inning. Schoop’s play on the third out that retired Encarnacion was a sight to be seen. Defensively, the right side of the O’s infield is as good as any group in baseball.
In the ninth, Baltimore faced Indians closer Cody Allen. Schoop and Jones struck out for the first two outs. Trey Mancini lined to right to end the game. The Indians won their 18th game in a row, the longest MLB streak since 2002. The O’s record fell to 71-72 as the road trip continues and they head for a series of must win games against Toronto and the Yankees.
Notes and Monday’s game
A third inning double was Tim Beckham’s 57th hit in 38 games as an Oriole.
Per Buster Olney, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop are among the leaders for American League MVP consideration. This is remarkable considering Machado’s poor start to the season and the unbelievable jump Schoop’s numbers made this year.
Jonathan Schoop’s sixth inning single plated his 49th RBI since the All-Star Break.
Orioles great Eddie Murray played for the Indians in 1994, 1995 and part of 1996.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer might be a familiar name because of his incident with a drone during the 2016 MLB playoffs.
Monday at 7:07ET the Orioles play in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 6.80) is scheduled to face Marco Estrada (7-8, 5.00).