August 14, 2014

A road trip that started out so well for the Baltimore Orioles can't end soon enough.

Having their most reliable starting pitcher on the mound with the potential for a series win should make them feel a little better.

Chris Tillman seeks a sixth consecutive win Sunday as the Orioles and first-place Cleveland Indians meet at Progressive Field.

A second straight victory over the Los Angeles Angels last Saturday moved the Orioles a season-best 11 games over .500, but they dropped the series finale behind another dismal start from Ubaldo Jimenez. They then struck out 52 times - a major league record for a three-game series - and were swept in Houston.

Baltimore (27-20) took Friday's series opener 6-4, but Jimenez couldn't make it out of the second inning in Saturday's 11-4 defeat, the Orioles' fifth in six games.

''We did some things that didn't help him,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''We had some throwing errors. When you're so deep in the count and 30-something pitches in the first inning, got everybody kind of on their heels there.''

There is plenty of blame to go around for the team's current malaise. The rotation has compiled a 6.30 ERA with just two quality starts in the 1-5 stretch, the usually stellar defense has committed 10 errors, including four on Saturday, and the offense is batting .189 with runners in scoring position.

With all those facets struggling, Tillman's turn in the rotation is coming at an opportune time. The right-hander has quietly been one of the best starting pitchers in the AL, going 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his last seven starts while completing at least six innings in each.

Tillman (6-1, 2.61 ERA) was very good again Tuesday against the Astros, yielding two runs and three hits in seven innings of a 3-2, 13-inning loss.

He won both starts last season against the Indians, allowing two runs over 13 1/3 innings.

Cleveland (26-21) put Saturday's game away early, scoring four runs in the first and building a 7-0 lead after three innings. Yan Gomes drove in three runs and Mike Napoli added two RBIs to help the Indians move into first in the AL Central for the first time since they won on opening day in 2014. They are there despite missing outfielder Michael Brantley and right-hander Carlos Carrasco because of injuries.

''There's people filling in,'' Napoli said. ''It's going to take all of us to do this. We've done a good job of sticking together.''

Mike Clevinger (0-1, 8.71) tries a third time for his first major league victory. The 25-year-old's first two starts came on the road and weren't particularly impressive. After allowing four runs over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision at Cincinnati on May 18, Clevinger gave up six runs and seven hits - including two homers - in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday.

"Early, I felt like I had a lot of stuff," Clevinger said. "I felt like all four pitches were working. I just kind of made some mistakes in high-leverage situations."

Right-handed batters are 8 for 19 against Clevinger, which could bode well for Baltimore's Mark Trumbo, who is 7 for 17 with two homers in his past four games.

Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall was removed from Saturday's game in the fifth inning due to blurred vision. His status is uncertain.

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