During the hottest day of the season so far — the game-time temperature at Camden Yards was a sweltering 100 degrees — the Orioles' bats finally started to heat up.
In their 9-8 win over the Indians, a game that included five lead changes, the Orioles enjoyed an offensive performance not seen in two weeks. Their nine runs Friday before an announced 24,779 matched the team's combined run total over the previous five games. It was also the most runs the Orioles have scored in 13 games since completing their three-game sweep of the Pirates on June 14.
“It's a nice way to win a game because it just wasn't ho-hum,” said catcher Matt Wieters, who hit a huge three-run homer in the sixth inning. “To be able to battle for that and see that if you get behind early you still have a chance to come back and win games, that something we haven't been doing.”
Rookie leftfielder Xavier Avery hit his first major league home run in the eighth inning — a solo shot to left off Chris Perez that proved to be the winning run. It came after fellow rookie Ryan Flaherty's two-out RBI single in the seventh against reliever Joe Smith and gave the Orioles a 8-7 lead.
But the biggest blow of the night — the one that seemed to put a much-needed charge in the Orioles' beleaguered offense — was Wieters' towering homer in the sixth that gave the Orioles a 7-5 lead.
“A lot of mental toughness showed itself in this game tonight,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Guys didn't give in, and I'm real proud of them. [They] never got into a ‘Woe is me, here we go again.' They just kept grinding it and found a way.”
Snapping a three-game losing streak with the win, the Orioles (42-34) move to four games behind the division-leading Yankees. As part of the celebration, Avery took a shaving cream pie to the face from teammate Adam Jones while he did a postgame TV interview.
“I didn't even see it coming, looking out for it,” Avery said. “But it felt good to get. I can still taste the shaving cream on my lips. I've got to say it tastes good, too.”
The Orioles entered the night having scored just 14 runs in their last nine games and were hitting .058 (3-for-52) with runners in scoring position in that span.
Wieters helped reverse that trend, taking a first-pitch from Cleveland sinkerballer Derek Lowe deep to right and onto Eutaw Street.
“I hit it pretty good,” Wieters said. “I was just looking for something to get in the air. He did a good job of keeping it on the ground the other two ABs. I was just trying to get something in the air to get the run in.”
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera also launched a homer onto Eutaw Street, marking just the second time in the history of Camden Yards that two balls landed there in the same game. Rafael Palmeiro hit two homers onto Eutaw Street on April 11, 1997.
Orioles starter Jake Arrieta lasted just 3 2/3 innings, tying his shortest start of the season and allowing five runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks. The Orioles defense didn't help him in the fourth inning, when Lonnie Chisenhall's fly ball to right-center fell in between Jones and Flaherty to put two on with no outs.
“Yeah, I mean several things just didn't go our way,” Arrieta said. “A few borderline calls could have gone either way — thought I executed quite a few good pitches to get guys out and the calls didn't go my way — but that happens. Just a tough night. They hit some good pitches.”
Long relief work by left-hander Troy Patton, who got the Orioles into the seventh inning without further damage, kept the Orioles in the game and allowed them to take a 7-5 lead on Wieters' homer.
Pedro Strop threw a perfect eighth for his 13th hold and, despite allowing a run in the ninth, closer Jim Johnson converted his 23rd save in 24 opportunities.