The Orioles exorcised their Sunday demons May 25, bagging a 4-2 victory against the Indians to split a four-game series. The victory snapped a six-game Sunday losing streak and improved the Birds to 2-6 on Sundays this season.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh split the first two games of the series. For O's fans, the less said about the third game, the better -- starter Ubaldo Jimenez failed to make it out of the fifth inning, getting tagged for five runs en route to a 9-0 loss. There weren't many positives for the O's to take out of that game.
During the series finale May 25, it looked early on as if the Indians might be headed to another rout of the Birds. Their first three batters of the game reached base, and Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Swisher both hit deep fly balls to the warning track for a pair of sacrifice flies, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead in the first. Gonzalez didn't seem to be fooling anyone in his shaky opening inning.
But Gonzalez righted the ship and kept the Indians off the board for the rest of his afternoon. In fact, he didn't allow another hit until the fifth inning, when David Murphy singled -- and was thrown out by catcher Caleb Joseph trying to steal second base. That caught stealing turned out to be a key play in the inning, as the Indians later put two more runners aboard, before Michael Brantley hit a grounder to second for the final out.
Gonzalez gutted out one more inning, stranding a one-out walk by Swisher to work a scoreless sixth. Gonzalez threw 100 pitches during his quality start, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings.
"I battled in the first inning," Gonzalez said. "I just told myself [to] just let it go. I made pitches and tried not to be too fine. … It was good after that. I made pitches when I needed to."
The Orioles' offense, after being shut out by Corey Kluber and two relievers May 24, had more success against May 25 starter Trevor Bauer. RBI singles by Jonathan Schoop in the second and Steve Pearce in the third tied the game. Pearce -- who hadn't started since May 13 -- went 3-for-4 filling in for Chris Davis, who was on paternity leave. Pearce continues to produce whenever he gets playing time.
"I want him because he loves the Orioles," manager Buck Showalter said of Pearce. "He loves being here. He loves being a part of this, and it meant something to him to stay here. And he had the opportunity to go elsewhere, and I think if it wasn't for his trust in his teammates and the people here, he might've left. But I've said many times, he's a professional player. He gets it. And he doesn't put himself on a pedestal. … He gets what he has. He doesn't assume [any] sense of entitlement at all, and that's a pretty good compliment."
The Orioles took the lead thanks to some heavy lumber in the fifth. Manny Machado -- who missed the previous two games with a groin stiffness -- put the Birds in front with a leadoff home run to the opposite field, his second homer of the year. Earlier during the day, Machado's status for the game was in doubt; the Orioles didn't post their lineup until about an hour before game time as they waited to see whether Machado could start. He did, and he paid dividends.
Two batters after Machado's blast, Nelson Cruz smacked his MLB-leading 16th home run, a solo shot into the Orioles' bullpen, to make it 4-2. The Orioles' bullpen made that lead stand, with Preston Guilmet, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton each working a scoreless inning of relief. Britton pitched in a save situation for the first time at Camden Yards and responded with a perfect inning to close it out.
For Showalter, the well-played win seemed to help erase some of the sting from the previous day's lopsided loss.
"The toughest part of this home stand for me was driving home yesterday and seeing everybody downtown in orange," Showalter said, "and knowing that we didn't return the favor by playing better. So you move on."
The 25-23 Orioles will now head on a 10-game road trip, beginning with three games against the National League Central-leading Brewers.
The Orioles made a series of transactions May 25, placing Davis on the paternity list as he and his wife, Jill, await the birth of their first child. The Orioles called up Guilmet before the game to replace Davis on the roster.
The O's also activated newly acquired catcher Nick Hundley and optioned infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Norfolk. The O's had called up Lombardozzi the previous day, and he played two innings May 24, going 0-for-1.