Take one lead against Corey Kluber and count your blessings. Take two and wish you could also take a knee and run out the clock.
Not in baseball.
Manny Machado homered twice this afternoon and Chris Davis broke a tie in the fourth inning with a run-scoring single, but the Indians battled back against Andrew Cashner to move ahead in the fifth and claimed a 7-3 victory over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 27,394 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (6-16) have dropped 10 of their last 12 games and they’ve scored three runs or fewer in 15 of 22.
At what point does it begin to get easier? Or does time simply run out?
Jose Ramirez hit a two-run homer off Brad Brach in the ninth and Yan Gomes added an RBI double to account for the final margin. Ramirez has three homers in the last two days.
Cashner allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings, with two walks, seven strikeouts, one home run and one wild pitch. The 112 pitches are the most he’s thrown since totaling 117 for the Padres on Sept. 11, 2015 in San Francisco.
Two runners were stranded in the sixth, with Cashner striking out Jason Kipnis on a high fastball to complete his day.
Machado extended his hitting streak to 10 games and removed early the possibility of a no-hitter by homering off Kluber with two outs in the first inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. He reached the home bullpen in the fourth to tie the game 2-2, his third multi-homer game of the season and 17th of his career.
Machado batted .224 with three homers and 13 RBIs in April 2017. Through the fourth inning today, he was batting .353 with eight homers and 17 RBIs.
A two-out single in the sixth gave Machado five hits in the series.
Adam Jones sliced a double into the right field corner with one out in the fourth and scored on Davis’ ground ball that somehow sneaked through the shift and reached the outfield grass to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead. But it didn’t last long. The Indians tied the game again in the fifth on Rajai Davis’ leadoff walk, a wild pitch and Francisco Lindor’s RBI single, and they reclaimed the lead on Ramirez’s walk and Michael Brantley’s single.
Ramirez led off the top of the fourth inning with a home run onto the flag court in right field to tie the game 1-1, and consecutive doubles by Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso gave Cleveland its first lead.
Opponents were 0-for-20 against Cashner with runners in scoring position until Alonso’s double. They batted .170 against him in those situations last summer.
The Orioles’ defense again factored into a rally. Right fielder Anthony Santander let Encarnacion’s ball get behind up on a failed attempt at a diving catch, and Luis Sardiñas cut off the throw to second base on Alonso’s double that might have produced an out.
Cashner struck out four of the first six batters he faced on 92, 93 and 94 mph fastballs and an 85 mph changeup. Two strikeouts came after Cashner fell behind 3-1 in the count and he was up to 30 pitches through the second.
The Indians put runners on second and third with one out in the third inning after a single, Sardinas’ error on a potential double play ball and a sacrifice bunt, but Cashner induced two fly balls to escape the jam.
Miguel Castro replaced Cashner in the seventh and tossed two scoreless innings, but Kluber kept motoring along.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh, but Santander worked him for 12 pitches to raise his total to 95. Mike Clevinger tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout yesterday, but Kluber was done after Caleb Joseph’s leadoff single in the eighth.
Give Santander the assist.
Joseph was 3-for-39 on the season before dumping a single into shallow right field. Andrew Miller entered and struck out Sardiñas and Craig Gentry and retired pinch-hitter Danny Valencia on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Ramirez muscled up again in the ninth and the Orioles were reduced to hoping for a split of the four-game series.
“It’s a hole, if you want to call it a ‘hole,’ something that can be dug out of,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We can. But you can’t just wish it and hope it and think it’s something that comes with the mathematics of a season. I understand you always have a sense of urgency. But you don’t really compare yourself with other teams that much and you don’t compare yourself with what portion of the season you’ve played and this and that and whatever.
“We know the world we live in and move on from that. These guys are participators, they’re not watchers and they understand what’s going on. We talk about it in some form or fashion every day. Some things out of sight. But we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to do better. We know that.”
Here’s more from Showater:
On whether there’s been another period where every aspect hasn’t clicked: “I think our starting pitching has been there for the most part. It’s been pretty good and it’s only going to get better, I think. But the season is so ... our sport and the season reveal any weaknesses that you have. Without getting into those, it’s pretty obvious where we’ve got to get better at. But I try to deal in reality, but at the same time, I think everybody has an idea of how hard this is to do. But it’s also something that can be done by the people that have done it in the past, so I’m going to trust that.”
On Cashner: “He battled his way. I thought it was a good effort, gave us a chance to win. It’s a good lineup, obviously. They haven’t been swinging the bats as well as they’re capable of, but I thought we had a shot at them there if we could have ... in a couple places, but Kluber’s not going to make many mistakes. Manny caught a couple of them on the barrel. But Cash fought his way though it and kept us engaged in the game, didn’t let it get away from him. Pretty impressive the last out he got to get us to that sixth inning.”
On Machado: “I think I’m past the, he doesn’t have to do anything to impress me. He’s on top of this game on both sides of the ball for the most part. It’s been fun to watch. He was locked in ... you guys saw him in the spring. He was locked in the first day of spring. He’s carried that over to the season.”
On whether he’s seeing anything positive: “Our starting pitching has been pretty solid, I think. For the most part that’s been. If you can stay engaged in that the other stuff should come. I try to look at things half full. Trum (Mark Trumbo) is going out tomorrow to get going, Zach (Britton) had another great day today throwing and it looks like he’s going to be on time, Jon (Schoop) almost pain-free, so that shouldn’t be too long. We’ll see. But in the meantime the games go on and we’ve got to be better, especially offensively.”
On how to separate good opposing pitching from team’s poor offense: “I have a lot of empathy for ... it’s challenging. He’s not a good pitcher, he’s one of the elite pitchers. And the guy yesterday. That’s why they’re playing at the end of the season. But we’ve faced some guys that maybe didn’t have that. So, that’s convenient.
“It’s true, but it’s not something our guys talk about and dwell on. We’ve got to beat those people to get where we want to go and we haven’t done that. So, that’s something’s that’s got to happen. It’s not just going to go away, especially in this division, where you’re seeing a quality pitcher almost every night.”
On what hitters can do against these elite pitchers: “They’re trying. Without reflecting poorly on one guy or whatever, the effort is there, the work that’s being put in, the preparation. If they stay true to that, we hope it comes. But there’s a lot of things I’m certainly not going to voice here and reflect on any one person. It’s not just one person, it’s all of us.”