CLEVELAND -- Things are not always easy, not especially when they are meaningful opportunities, and Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger knows that well after Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Clevinger struggled mightily in the first two innings, but found a way to work around four walks, six hits and two hit batsmen and allowed only two earned runs to last five frames and earn his third victory of the season.
“I wouldn’t say surprised because I never expect that game, but that was the hardest one I think I’ve had out there,” Clevinger said.
“I should’ve weighed myself. I went through three jerseys in five innings of work, so that’s saying something.”
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 think all the credit in the world goes to that defense because I basically kept them, with the walks and everything, I put them on their heels and they stayed locked in, kept making plays,” Clevinger said. “I just had to kind of figure out what was going wrong.”
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.
“I was feeling kind of too good,” Clevinger said. “It was almost like I was flying open because everything felt really fluid, and everything was moving pretty quick toward the plate. Once I kind of reset and calmed down after the second, I got a good breather after that 90-pitch inning that I had. I kind of collected myself and got back out there.
“It’s definitely better to be like, ‘Well, my stuff’s working. It just may be flying open,’ so that was a plus. It’s a little bit harder when your pitches are not working and you’ve got to find that pitch to get back into the game. It’s a little bit more difficult.”
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.
“They come back and pick me right back up, and it gives me a little more incentive to get back out there and correct things,” Clevinger said.