BALTIMORE: Even skeptical Indians fans – that is, most of them – should have known the Tribe would win at least one more game this season.
Granted, the Wobbly Wahoos looked pathetic losing their previous five and scoring one run in three of them. But bad things come to an end, too, and Thursday night, they walloped the Baltimore Orioles 7-2 at Camden Yards.
“Every win feels good, and every loss stinks the same,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It’s good to snap out of it and not have to be thinking about it.”
The keys to victory were obvious: an efficient start by Zach McAllister, called up from Triple-A Columbus to take the place of recently demoted Jeanmar Gomez, and an energetic attack that produced three home runs, which is one more than the Tribe hit in its previous six games.
“McAllister has been giving us an opportunity in the outings he’s had this year and his last two last year,” Acta said. “He continues to make improvement not only with his fastball but with his secondary pitches. He threw some good sliders tonight, and his fastball sneaks up on people. They don’t get good swings at it.”
As erratic as the starting pitching has been, the Indians’ offense has been worse. In fact, for most of the month it has been monotonously consistent. But Thursday night, the Tribe’s bats were their best friends, even against a left-handed starter, Wei-Yin Chen, who came into the game with a 7-3 record and 3.38 ERA.
In addition to being knocked around for two home runs in 6? innings, Chen didn’t have the best luck. As soon as he left, with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, Asdrubal Cabrera hit Luis Ayala’s third pitch into the bleachers in right for his 10th home run of the season, burdening Chen with two more earned runs.
“Cabrera is the guy we want up at the plate with the game on the line,” Acta said, noting that his home run put the game away.
The Indians began assaulting Chen in the second inning. Jose Lopez led off with a single, Michael Brantley drew a walk and one out later, Johnny Damon, who bats from the left side, took Chen’s 1-and-0 pitch over the wall in right to give McAllister a 3-0 cushion.
With two out in the third, another lefty, Shin-Soo Choo, whacked Chen’s 1-and-1 pitch the opposite way over the fence in left field for his seventh homer of the year to make it 4-0.
Damon has a history of tormenting the Orioles, especially in their own ballpark. He came into the game with these career numbers at Camden Yards: a .313 batting average in 473 at-bats, 25 doubles, 21 home runs, 77 RBI.
“When they let me go in Tampa, I thought the Orioles would come and get me,” Damon said. “But that obviously didn’t happen, and that’s OK with me.”
At that point, it appeared the Orioles would not make a game of it. Through four, McAllister retired the first two batters of the inning, then gave up a hit or a walk (in the fourth it was two hits), but retired the side without incident.
But in the fifth, Ryan Flaherty led off the inning with a single and scored on J.J. Hardy’s two-out homer. Mc-Allister gave up another two-out hit in the sixth, a double by Wilson Betemit, but this time Acta went to his bullpen for Joe Smith.
“The guys who came after McAllister were lights out for us,” Acta said, as Smith and Esmil Rogers combined to throw 3? hitless innings.
McAllister (2-1, 3.82 ERA) did his job, giving up seven hits, walking only one and striking out six. Four times he ended innings with a strikeout, which would seem to be a good sign.
“When I get two strikes, I like to put guys away,” Mc-Allister said. “Before that, I’m trying to get soft contact.”
Now 24, McAllister was summoned from Triple-A on May 7 to take the place of injured Josh Tomlin. He stayed until May 24, getting four starts and posting a 1-1 record and 3.96 ERA.
This time, McAllister probably will receive a more extended trial, and maybe it will be a trial that turns into the rest of the season. That depends on the way he pitches and whether Gomez gets straightened out in Triple-A.
“It is helpful [to know I’m not going back now],” Mc-Allister said. “But if I don’t do my job, I will get sent down.”
But for now, McAllister is the man to watch. If he can continue to perform as he has in limited action, he can do a lot to stabilize the Tribe’s rotation.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.