Sheldon Ocker

BALTIMORE: Nothing comes easily for the Indians.

Wednesday night at Camden Yards, Scott Kazmir sparkled for seven innings, but the offense struggled and Joe Smith allowed the Orioles to take the lead in the eighth.

So how silent was it in the clubhouse after the loss? What loss? The Tribe scored twice in the ninth to win 4-3, and the music was blasting.

“It was one of those games that could have been a killer loss,” manager Terry Francona said. “Instead, it turned out to be a great win.”

All it took in the ninth was a leadoff walk to Michael Brantley, Jason Giambi’s towering double to put runners on second and third, an intentional walk to Carlos Santana and two ground balls that the Orioles tried to turn into double plays.

But they couldn’t. Both became RBI forceouts, with Lonnie Chisenhall and Drew Stubbs emulating Olympic sprinters digging to beat throws to first.

“That’s one of the things we love about Stubbs,” Francona said. “If he put the bat on the ball, it’s pretty hard to double him up.”

Vinnie Pestano delivered the save in the ninth with some 93 mile-per-hour fastballs and a few nasty sliders.

Kazmir seemed to be in total control of the Orioles’ lineup for seven innings. He struck out only four but induced the O’s to beat the ball into the dirt for nine outs.

“I set the tone by being able to throw my fastball in and out,” Kazmir said. “My change-up kept them off balance. That’s something I’ve been working on.”

Kazmir might have thrown enough innings to begin to lock in his mechanics after being out of the big leagues last year.

“Because he’s had so many repetitions, he can go out and compete and not think about things like his mechanics,” Francona said.

Manny Machado ended Kazmir’s run when he ripped a 1-and-1 pitch just inside the third-base line for a double to lead off the seventh with the first Orioles hit.

It wasn’t wasted, thanks to an error by Kazmir, who one out later whirled and threw to second to keep Machado close. The ball bounced in the dirt near the runner and rolled far enough into the outfield to allow Machado to reach third, from where he scored on Matt Wieters’ sacrifice fly.

Who and when was aware of the no-hitter in progress? What no-hitter?

“I didn’t know until a fan yelled it three times in a row,” Kazmir said. “I think it was when Machado was up (in the seventh).”

When Kazmir began to warm up in the eighth, Francona and head trainer Lonnie Soloff trotted to the mound.

“Back spasms,” Francona said. “He was fighting that for probably three innings. Lonnie tried to stretch him out [between innings] and was pretty successful.

“But when he went out for the eighth and started warming up, you could tell. And I wasn’t going to let him lose a game because of that.”

Kazmir said once he got into an inning, he was OK, until the eighth.

“It started to tighten up in the third, but I would throw a few pitches and it would loosen up,” Kazmir said.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter complained to plate umpire Ted Barrett that Francona might be trying to get more time for Smith to warm up, as is his right if the previous pitcher leaves with an injury.

If Showalter had known what was coming, he wouldn’t have said a word. Smith gave up two runs and the lead on three hits and a walk.

It should be no surprise that Jason Kipnis had the only Tribe bat that seemed to be in working order. With Jason Hammel matching Kazmir virtually pitch for pitch, it was Kipnis who broke the pitcher’s spell after Asdrubal Cabrera was hit by a pitch with one out in the fourth inning.

Hammel made the mistake of running the count to 3-and-2 on Kipnis, who whacked the next pitch over the left-field wall for his 11th home run of the season and the second in as many games.

Kipnis has been keeping the Indians’ attack afloat this month, making an impact in just about every offensive category. In addition to batting .400, he has driven in 19 runs, scored 11, homered three times and collected nine doubles in 23 games. He also is 7-for-7 in steals, though he was picked off once.

“The month isn’t over yet,” Kipnis said. “I’m trying to keep it going. I’m maturing as a player. I’m trying not to change anything that I did the day before.”

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ.