CLEVELAND -- There is something to be said for being able to work through jams, especially at the center of a baseball diamond with most of the stadium cheering for you to give up hits, and getting around trouble is exactly what Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger did against the Baltimore Orioles Thursday.
Clevinger struggled mightily in the first two innings, but found a way to “maneuver” around four walks, six hits and two hit batsmen and allowed only two earned runs over five frames in the Indians’ 6-3 victory over Baltimore in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
“Well, that’s one word to call it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s the ultimate bend but don’t break. It’s hard to imagine five innings, 100 pitches, what five hits, four or five walks, two hit batsmen and give up two runs.”
Orioles right fielder Seth Smith led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run to straightaway center field.
Third baseman Manny Machado followed with a walk, and then, second baseman Jonathan Schoop singled to left-center field. However, Clevinger struck out cleanup hitter Mark Trumbo, got a fielder’s choice from first baseman Trey Mancini, and then, got catcher Wellington Castillo out looking at a third strike.
In the second inning, Clevinger allowed a lead-off single to left-center field off the bat of left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, and then, hit shortstop Ruben Tejada and center fielder Craig Gentry with pitches in consecutive at-bats to load the bases with nobody out.
On a 2-2 pitch, Clevinger got a grounder from Smith, and fired home to catcher Yan Gomes for the first out of the inning. Then, Gomes relayed a throw to first base for the second out. After Machado and Schoop walked, the latter of which came with the bases loaded, Clevinger got Trumbo to fly out to end the threat.
“I will say that he competed like crazy and he never gave in,” Francona said. “When he got the comebacker, I think Seth Smith hit the comebacker, that was obviously huge because they ended up getting them loaded again that inning, and he wiggled his way out of it.
“That’s stressful on everybody. That’s stressful on him. We had Mac (Zach McAllister) warming up for four innings, so we didn’t want to go too far with him, but we hung on and go home feeling good.”
In the third inning, Clevinger allowed a single and walk, but got a 5-4-3 double play to neutralize the Orioles, and then, when Gomes caught Gentry stealing, it erased the only baserunner in the fourth.
Although Clevinger struggled with control issues, every time Baltimore scored early, the Indians had a response, which they did often on the eight-game road trip, where they posted a 7-1 record and turned a two-game deficit into a 2.5-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Division standings.
“I don’t want to beat him up over it because he competed like crazy, and it would’ve been easy to give up six, but he didn’t,” Francona said. “I hope he can take that out of that.”