It's dangerous business letting a club on a 15-game winning streak get out ahead early, and on Friday, the Orioles found out why.
The host Cleveland Indians provided most of what they needed in a 5-0 licking of the Orioles at Progressive Field in a three-run first inning, and the American League's best pitching staff ensured that held up.
“What is that, 16 in a row?” Orioles starter Wade Miley said. “Just trying to go out there and have a scoreless first. It didn't work out that way. … I made a couple mistakes. A mistake to [Edwin] Encarnación early in the game that cost us three runs and put us behind the eight-ball.”
A second straight listless loss dropped the Orioles to 71-70 while the Indians’ 16th straight win improved them to 85-56.
As so often happens to Miley (8-12), his frenetic pace on the mound in the first inning added to the feeling that things were getting out of control quickly.
The veteran Miley walked Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor to open the game, then watched as second baseman Jonathan Schoop mishandled a direct double-play ball and had to settle for just the force at second. After third baseman Yandy Díaz singled, Encarnación scored them all with a towering 420-foot home run to center field that gave the Indians a 3-0 lead they carried deep into the game.
After that, Miley settled in, using a pair of double plays and a flurry of groundouts to keep the score the same into the sixth inning. In that frame, Díaz yanked a double down the left-field line, and scored on a two-out skied double by first baseman Carlos Santana that landed on the chalk of the right-field line.
Miley allowed four runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings before he was relieved by Miguel Castro. Miley's ERA climbed to 4.96 on the year.
“Wade pitched pretty well other than the first inning, but they play good defense and they pitch well,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s a good combination, obviously.”
The chilliest night the Orioles have had to contend with in weeks — along with a pitcher carrying two straight scoreless starts into the game in Cleveland's Mike Clevinger — meant for a cold night at the plate for the visitors.
“Pitching’s on top of its game, hitting’s on top of its game, pitching wins,” Showalter said. “That’s why it’s at such a premium and why they’re having such a good year and are able to put together good strings.”
The Orioles got one man into scoring position against Clevinger: shortstop Tim Beckham, who walked with two outs in the third and went to third base on a single by shortstop Manny Machado but was left there when Schoop struck out.
Otherwise, left fielder Trey Mancini singled in the fourth and center fielder Adam Jones dropped a single into center in the fifth. Clevinger's six scoreless innings mean he hasn’t allowed a run in his past three starts. The Orioles were held to four hits.
Indians pitchers struck out Orioles batters 11 times, which catcher Caleb Joseph believed was too many.
“We've got to just find more ways to put pressure on them,” Joseph said. “Strikeouts are tough. When you put the ball in play, you just never know what's going to happen.”
Caution with Castillo
Joseph wasn’t meant to start in the initial lineup, but the Orioles made a precautionary change before the game as catcher Welington Castillo monitored a situation back in Baltimore that might have required him to return to be with his family. Castillo was in the clubhouse after the game.
Before the days of the expanded roster, long relievers Castro and Richard Bleier were used to keep winnable games close in the middle innings. Despite his offense not mustering much in facing a four-run deficit, manager Buck Showalter summoned them in that order Friday. Castro got out of the sixth inning for Miley and ended up loading the bases with one out before striking out Encarnación.
Then, he gave way to Bleier, who allowed one of those runs in on a wild pitch, but got out of the inning without further damage. Chris Tillman recorded the final out of the eighth.
After appearing as a defensive replacement behind the plate twice since being added to the roster on Sept. 1, rookie Chance Sisco got his first opportunity at the plate in the eighth. Sisco worked the count full against reliever Bryan Shaw, but looked at strike three on a cutter away.