Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn't a fan of doubleheaders. It's such a daunting chore to manage a pitching staff through two games on the same day, let alone win both games.
The key is usually strong starting pitching, and Showalter received that in Sunday's split admission doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians as the Orioles won a twin bill sweep, winning Game 1, 4-0, and claiming the nightcap, 8-0.
With their two wins Sunday, the Orioles jumped over the New York Yankees and moved into a virtual tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East, the first time the Orioles owned at least a share of the division lead since April 19. The Orioles' winning percentage is .547, slightly better than the Rays' .545.
“It's a return for that [good play] but it can be very fleeting,” Showalter said. “The only thing I look at is the loss column every now and then. I don't pay much attention to the other part of it. See if you can stay engaged and roll the dice in September, that's what it's about. Position yourself to be in it in September and play meaningful games when the leaves start turning. It's not complicated. To stay engaged in our division is a challenge and our guys have done it.”
The doubleheader sweep marked the first time the Orioles won both games of a twin bill by shutout since 2-0 and 1-0 victories at Cleveland on Sept. 6, 1974, according to STATS. The winning pitchers in those games were Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar.
The surging Orioles (41-34) — who are now a season-high seven games above .500 — completed a three-game sweep of the Indians and won their seventh series in their past eight opportunities. They open a four-game home series Monday against the Texas Rangers having won seven of their past eight games and 18 of their past 23.
The Orioles received a pair of tremendous starting pitching performances — Ubaldo Jimenez tossed eight scoreless innings in Game 1 and Chris Tillman rebounded from his shortest outing of the season with seven scoreless innings in Game 2.
“Credit to those guys,” said left fielder Travis Snider, who homered and made the defense play of the day in Game 2. “They've battled for us all year. We were able to come out on the top end tonight and tremendous job by everybody that grabbed the ball for us.”
The Orioles combined to hit five home runs in the two games.
"It's big,” Tillman said of the doubleheader sweep. “Ubaldo went out and did an outstanding job. There was a lot of offense today, and I think that was big in both games. Ubaldo didn't really need it. He threw the ball really well. It was fun to watch."
Jimenez held the Indians (33-41), losers of seven of their past nine games, to just four hits in Game 1. In his 15th start this year, Jimenez recorded seven strikeouts and issued zero walks against his former team. It was his third start this season in which he did not walk a batter. He walked a batter in all 22 of his starts last season
After Jimenez induced a ground out from Jason Kipnis to end the eighth, he walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the announced sellout crowd of 45,675 at Camden Yards.
"I got goosebumps standing there because he's been pitching well and I know all the hard work he's put into it," said third baseman Manny Machado, who hit his 15th homer in the sixth inning of Game 1, setting a new career-high. "This year, he has a mindset of 'I want to show everybody who I am.' He's doing it. He's showing who the real Ubaldo is. He's throwing strikes. He's pitching well, and that's what we need from him."
Jimenez (7-3), who won his fourth straight start, retired the final seven batters he faced and 19 of his last 21. His eight innings were a season high and he pitched at least seven innings and did not allow an earned run for the second time this season.
Orioles designated hitter Jimmy Paredes hit a two-run home run in the third inning, doubled, reached base three times and scored two runs in the afternoon game. Machado hit a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning, sending a 1-2 pitch just over the left-field fence for his seventh homer in June.
After Machado's homer, Paredes followed with a double, then moved to third on a wild pitch. He scored two batters later on Chris Davis' RBI double into the left-center field gap, giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead.
Saturday's rainout allowed Tillman, who lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed six runs in his most recent start last Sunday in Toronto, to pitch Sunday's nightcap on six days rest. He also had two work days between starts.
Tillman (6-7) allowed just four hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking none. He retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.
The Orioles hit three homers in Game 2 in front of an announced crowd of 40,006 that lined up outside Camden Yards well before the gates opened to get the much-hyped Showalter garden gnome giveaway. All three homers came in the Orioles' six-run fourth inning.
With the Orioles already leading 2-0 after Ryan Flaherty's two-run single in the second — a rally that began after Kipnis' two-out fielding error at second base — Davis opened the fourth inning with a solo blast to right field off Toru Murata, his 16th homer of the season.
Two batters later, Travis Snider hit his third home run of the season into the right-center field bleachers to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead.
Former Orioles reliever Ryan Webb replaced Murata (0-1) after a one-out walk to J.J. Hardy, but three batters later — after a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter David Lough — Machado doubled home Hardy. Chris Parmelee then hit a two-run home run to center field to give the Orioles an 8-0 lead.
Tillman received some help from his defense in the sixth, when Snider laid out for Francisco Lindor's line drive in left-center field, making a full-extension diving catch to take away extra bases.
Laying on his back after the catch, Snider extended his glove in the air for several moments, showing the umpires he made the grab while also savoring the moment.
“I think I was the most surprised person in the stadium that I caught the ball, so I had to kind of soak it in for a second, make sure it was still in there,” Snider said.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland — who pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Tillman — preserved the shutout in the ninth, stranding runners at second and third base by striking out Ryan Raburn looking and inducing a flyout to right from Mike Aviles for the final out of the game.