CLEVELAND (AP) — Baltimore’s bid for its longest winning streak of the season fell a step short Monday night.
Orioles starter Tommy Hunter pitched well enough to win, but continued to be plagued by the home run ball and ran out of steam in the eighth.
Throw in a lack of offense and a pair of baserunning blunders, and the Orioles saw their five-game winning streak end with a 3-1 loss to the Indians, costing Baltimore a chance at sweeping the four-game series.
The Orioles closed their road trip to Minnesota and Cleveland with a 5-3 record. Considering they lost their first two games to the Twins, the trip was a success, but manager Buck Showalter thought it could have been better.
“I know our guys feel like there was a game there to be won, with the pitching we got,” he said.
The long ball was a nemesis once again for Hunter (4-5). Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run blast in the third — the 22nd homer Hunter has allowed in 95 1/3 innings — gave Cleveland the lead for good. Hunter allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings. He was pulled after the first two hitters in the eighth reached on singles and the Indians added a run.
Baltimore managed one run off three Cleveland pitchers. Justin Masterson (7-8) worked into the eighth before Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez finished up.
The Orioles let a good chance get away in the eighth when some apparent confusion between Nick Markakis and third base coach DeMarlo Hale cost them a run. Markakis’ one-out single finished Masterson and Endy Chavez doubled into the corner in left.
Markakis hustled around third as left fielder Aaron Cunningham picked up the ball and threw to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Markakis stopped halfway between third and home — perhaps after not picking up Hale’s stop sign quickly enough.
By then, catcher Carlos Santana had Cabrera’s relay throw in his mitt. He tossed to third baseman Jack Hannahan, who applied the tag to Markakis, who hung his head as he trotted to the Orioles’ dugout.
Chavez took third, but Pestano struck out Jim Thome to end the inning.
“It was 99.9 percent my fault,” Markakis said. “I should have picked up my third base coach and by the time I saw him, I didn’t see him do anything so I was using my own judgment. I thought I was going to get there. I heard him as I was going past the bag. I stopped and froze. I should have kept going. I should have made them make two good throws and get me out. It didn’t end up good. It was bad baserunning on my part.”
Showalter refused to blame either Markakis or Hale.
“There’s about 20 things there to make that play not matter,” Showalter said. “That had nothing to do with winning or losing the baseball game.”
Adam Jones led off the second with a double, but was caught off second on Wilson Betemit’s one-out grounder back to Masterson.
Jones, who had gone too far off the bag, was tagged out in a rundown and Chris Davis struck out to end the inning.
“Those were the keys to the game,” said Cabrera, involved in both plays as well as all three double plays by the Indians.
The Orioles were held scoreless until two outs in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty was hit with a 1-2 pitch and scored when Omar
Quintanilla — making his first start with the Orioles since being acquired from the Mets on Friday — doubled into the left field corner. Markakis walked, but the inning ended when first baseman Casey Kotchman leaped to grab Chavez’s line drive.
Masterson pitched 7 1/3 strong innings to help Cleveland break a four-game losing streak. The right-hander gave up only one run and seven hits, improving to 5-2 over his last eight starts.
Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 29 chances. Choo’s homer was the 10th allowed by Hunter in his last seven starts and 20th this season.
Quintanilla made his first start as Showalter gave shortstop J.J. Hardy a rest. Hardy had a cortisone shot in his sore right
shoulder before the All-Star break.
Michael Brantley’s bases-loaded single off reliever Troy Patton made it 3-1 in the bottom half.
NOTES: Orioles RHP Stu Pomeranz (sore back) will be re-evaluated by doctors Tuesday. He went to the DL with an oblique injury, then hurt his back while rehabbing. … Orioles 2B Brian Roberts (hip injury) continues baseball activities in Sarasota, Fla. but there’s no timetable for his return. … RHP Joel Pineiro will have surgery on his right shoulder Tuesday. He has pitched in Baltimore’s minor league system this season. … The Orioles open a three-game series
at home against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Wei-Yin Chen faces Jeremy Hellickson.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)