CLEVELAND—It was a terrific way to end a challenging road trip. One that begin with winning two of three against the Los Angeles Angels, but derailed in Houston when the Orioles struck out 52 times.
On Sunday, the Orioles won an exhausting game against the Cleveland Indians, winning two of three this weekend, and setting them up for a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox at home.
There were plenty of highlights. Hyun Soo Kim hit his first major league home run to give the Orioles the lead, and Darren O’Day rescued Brad Brach from trouble in the eighth inning.
The Orioles’ 6-4 win over the Indians before 18,565 at Progressive Field, keeps them a game behind the Red Sox, who had lost their previous three games.
Despite actually losing five of nine on the trip, the Orioles (28-20) can feel good about what they accomplished against Cleveland (26-22) a team that’s in contention for the AL Central.
“It’s half full, half empty. It’s behind us and we’re moving on. I don’t look at it any way. I don’t. Somebody will say you won two out of three series and somebody will say you got beat three times in Houston,” manager Buck Showalter said
With the score tied at four in the seventh, Kim lined a 2-2 pitch off Jeff Manship (0-1) to right field, and the Orioles had a 5-4 lead.
Kim, who began the season as a virtual outcast because he refused to accept the club’s request that he hone his game in Norfolk.
Instead, Kim mostly watched for the season’s first several weeks, but produced in his occasional appearances.
During the road trip with the Orioles striking out at a record pace, Showalter inserted the contact hitting Kim into the lineup, and he’s produced.
While he did strike out twice on Sunday, Kim walked and hit the home run.
“I can’t lie that I wasn’t looking for one, but I was mainly focused on making a good hit with good contact and hit the ball as hard as possible,” Kim said through his interpreter.
In South Korea, Kim showed power. Last year, he hit 28 home runs there, but on his first one in the U.S., he trotted around the bases and ran into the dugout while his teammates ignored him.
A moment later, they rushed to congratulate him.
“I’ve seen a reaction like that in Korea, so I was aware of it, so I thought maybe I should just step back until they react,” Kim said.
The 5-4 lead didn’t look as if it would hold up in the eighth.
Brad Brach had pitched a scoreless seventh, but Jason Kipnis singled to start the eighth, and Francisco Lindor doubled. Darren O’Day came on to face Mike Napoli, and retired him on a ground ball to third. Jose Ramirez was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Lonnie Chisenhall fouled off six straight pitches, and was finally called out on strikes for the second out, and Yan Gomes struck out to end the inning.
“That’s what being a reliever is all about, just getting out of situations like that,” O’Day said.
Normally, O’Day enters a game to start an inning, most likely the eight, with no runners on. This time, he didn’t.
“Usually when I come in, it’s a clean inning and I make it a bases-loaded situation. I’m used to being in those situations,” O’Day said. “It’s tough, but that’s what relief pitching is all about, stranding runners and keeping your cool when the hitter is also anxious to get the job done.”
Nolan Reimold hit his fourth home run of the year off Tommy Hunter in the ninth to give the Orioles some breathing room.
Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 14th save, but it wasn’t easy. Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis started the inning with singles. Carlos Santana hit into a force play, and Britton ended it by striking out Kipnis and Lindor.
The Orioles quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead off Mike Clevinger.
Adam Jones walked, and with one out, Manny Machado singled and Chris Davis walked to load the bases. Mark Trumbo slammed a ball off the left field wall scoring all three runners.
Jonathan Schoop doubled to start the fourth and later scored on Ryan Flaherty’s first RBI of the season, a sacrifice fly to center.
Chris Tillman (7-1) didn’t allow a hit in the first three innings, but arlos Santana led off the fourth with a home run. With one out, Lindor walked and Napoli homered, and the lead was cut to 4-3.
Kipnis tied the score at four with his seventh home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Tillman gave up three home runs in his first 10 starts, and then equaled that on Sunday.