BALTIMORE – The Orioles don’t often complete four-game sweeps, and Steve Clevenger doesn’t often homer. Both happened on Monday night.
The Orioles have their first four-game sweep of 2015, and 46 games into his Orioles career, Clevenger hit his first home run.
Clevenger, who grew up just blocks from Oriole Park and often walked to games as a youngster, hit a three-run home run off Sonny Gray to lead the Orioles to a 4-2 win over the Oakland Athletics before 22,766 at Oriole Park.
“The Pride of Pigtown” is the first Baltimore native to ever homer for the Orioles at Oriole Park, the first to homer anywhere since Damon Buford did it on May 9, 1993 in Toronto, and the first to homer in Baltimore since Tom Phoebus on Aug. 8, 1988.
“I wasn’t thinking about it right away until I got back into the dugout. I think it’s awesome. Playing here in Baltimore is a dream come true for me. To be part of this team right now, help the team get a ‘W’ here in Baltimore and get it rolling. It’s great. It’s an awesome experience,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger is with the Orioles because Matt Wieters hasn’t been able to play, and he knows his time here could be short. Wieters may be ready to return from his strained right hamstring as soon as Tuesday.
In the Orioles’ 18-2 rout on Sunday, Clevenger had his first four-hit day.
“It bodes well for him. It's always a good time for someone who can contribute like he did yesterday and today,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Clevenger has had an excellent year at Norfolk, and even if he’s returned to the Tides, he’ll be back with the Orioles after the rosters expand in two weeks.
“He’s done nothing but improve as a catcher down there [in Triple-A], I read the reports. Talking to him very bluntly this spring, I said ‘Go down there and lead the league in hitting. You are going to be holding all the marbles at the end of this year. Present yourself attractively, with everything.’ And he’s done everything at every turn that’s why I’m glad he’s getting a return for it. Glad we are, too,” Showalter said.
Clevenger, who has been less than pleased to be sent back to Triple-A, is realistic.
“I hope Buck is paying attention a little bit,” Clevenger joked. “I’m just here to help the team anyway I can and when Buck calls my name I’m gonna do my best to do what I can do with the bat.”
The Orioles (61-56) are five games over .500 for the first time since July 2, and hold the second wild card spot.
Their four-game sweep over Oakland (51-69) was their first against the Athletics since May 22-25, 1987.
“I can't tell you how hard it is to win four games from the same team, home or away. It's hard,” Showalter said.
Chris Tillman gave up home runs to Danny Valencia leading off the second and Mark Canha to start the sixth. Canha had the only other hit off Tillman (9-7), a two-out single in the third.
Rebounding after allowing five runs in 2 1/3 innings on Aug. 11, Tillman struck out three and walked three in seven.
Tillman has enjoyed playing with Clevenger, who was the designated hitter.
“I think he’s done way more than his fair share of what he needs to do to stay up. But look at the guys in front of him. They’re doing just as well. Clev is great, he’s evolved with the pitching staff and as a pitching staff we appreciate him,” Tillman said.
Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth, and Zach Britton finished Oakland off in the ninth for his 29th save.
Sonny Gray (12-5) sped through three innings, allowing just a second inning single by Jonathan Schoop, and it looked as if he’d have an easy fourth, too. But, after retiring the first two batters, Chris Davis reached on an error by second baseman Eric Sogard.
Schoop followed with a single, and Clevenger homered to right field. It was Clevenger’s first home run in the major leagues since June 29, 2012. He that one against Bud Norris when Clevenger played for the Chicago Cubs and Norris was with the Houston Astros.
“I reminded him all the time when he was here. It’s been a while since I hit one, but I always reminded him about it,” Clevenger said.
Joseph’s RBI double scored J.J. Hardy from first in the sixth. It was Joseph’s 43rd RBI. Only Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado have more, and it gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead.
NOTE: The last Orioles’ four-game sweep was June 30-July 3, 2014 against Texas.
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