BALTIMORE: What a mess.
Corey Kluber was far from his best, but through four innings he muddled through as best he could, keeping the Indians in the game. But like a leaky dam holding back the Colorado River, Kluber was washed away the next inning by a Baltimore Orioles attack he had tenuously kept at bay.
The Orioles’ five-run rally in the fifth settled the issue, the Tribe falling 7-3 to split the four-game series at Camden Yards.
It certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty from Kluber’s point of view. He gave up six hits and his defense — including his own personal blunder — didn’t help.
Two runs scored on Matt Wieters’ double to right, on which Drew Stubbs couldn’t find the handle. Wieters kept going to third and a run scored on the error.
The next batter, J.J. Hardy, hit a slow roller between Kluber and the third-base line. Kluber bent over to pick up the ball and kicked it to the dugout, as another runner crossed the plate.
Kluber also was vulnerable in the first four innings but exercised admirable damage control.
The first two batters in the Orioles’ first inning singled, but no runs scored. He gave up two runs in the second on a two-out RBI single by Ryan Flaherty. Kluber gave up a leadoff double in the fourth, but the Orioles couldn’t take advantage.
Nevertheless, it was no surprise when the Orioles got to him in the fifth. Altogether, Kluber gave up seven runs (six earned), 11 hits and one walk in 4⅔ innings.
It was his shortest outing since he pitched two innings May 31, but that doesn’t really count. That start was aborted because of a rain delay that lasted more than two hours.
Kluber (6-5, 4.16 ERA) struggled through another appearance of 4⅔ innings on May 10 against the Detroit Tigers, giving up eight runs and 11 hits. But that was 10 starts ago, indicating that he’s pitched relatively well.
Between the start in Detroit and Thursday night, Kluber compiled a 2.81 ERA in eight games.
The game was interrupted for one hour, 18 minutes by rain after the Tribe batted in the seventh, an event that did not add zest to the game.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez seemed to blindly follow the path to destruction that plagued Kluber with one difference — he didn’t succumb to a multi-run meltdown.
Gonzalez (6-3, 3.78 ERA) lasted 6⅔ innings and gave up three runs on nine hits. But he didn’t walk anyone, and when he put runners on base he was able to stop the bleeding.
Lonnie Chisenhall put the Tribe on the scoreboard with a long home run to right with two out and nobody on in the second. Michael Brantley’s leadoff double in the fourth set up a run, when Chisenhall doubled him home one out later. Mike Aviles’ home run to start the fifth accounted for the third run.
Maybe the most positive aspect about the game in the view of the Indians was Chisenhall’s two explosive at-bats. In addition to his home run and double, Chisenhall lined a single up the middle in the ninth inning.
Since returning from Triple-A Columbus June 18, Chisenhall was batting .190 (4-for-21) with one extra-base hit (a double) coming into Thursday night’s action.
Whether this marks a turning point in Chisenhall’s season remains to be seen.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.