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CLE@BAL: Duncan's solo shot puts the Tribe up early

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' pitching staff might be confused about what took place during the past four games. When the Indians' team bus rolled up to Camden Yards for this weekend series, Cleveland was one of the worst clubs against left-handed pitching.

In Sunday's finale, the Tribe pulled off a 6-2 victory over Baltimore, taking the series three games to one. Each of the Indians' three wins came against lefty starters. The Orioles even added a left-hander to the weekend rotation to capitalize on Cleveland's season-long woes against southpaws.

"You're never as good as some people think or as bad as some other people think you are," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We are better than that against left-handed pitching."

The Indians (40-38) -- who ended their road trip through Houston, New York and Baltimore with a 4-6 mark -- struck for five runs (four earned) against Orioles southpaw starter Brian Matusz in Sunday's victory. That was more than sufficient to help sinkerballer Justin Masterson find the win column after another strong outing for Cleveland.

Going into this season, the Tribe tried to find ways to counter the fact that there would be days that the lineup might feature nine lefties. Cleveland loaded its Opening Day roster with right-handed reserves such as Shelley Duncan, Jose Lopez, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Aaron Cunningham, who each have a history of performing well enough against lefty pitchers.

Heading into this four-game set in Baltimore, though, the Indians were just 5-16 against left-handed starters -- and the team had an American League-worst .216 average against left-handed pitching. In this series, Cleveland saw lefties Wei-Yin Chen, Dana Eveland (added to the rotation for Saturday's game) and Matusz -- and the Tribe beat up on each of them.

Combined, Cleveland scored 16 runs (15 earned) and hit .322 (19-for-59) in 14 innings against that trio of lefty starters.

"They're such a good offensive team," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "If you look at some of their splits through their Minor League and Major League [careers], it's not something that should continue. Unfortunately, it didn't here. You couple that with us not pitching well, it doesn't matter if you are left-handed, right-handed or throwing them between your legs."

On Sunday, it was Cleveland's right-handed hitters who led the charge against Baltimore (42-36), which has lost 10 of its past 15 games. Duncan and Cunningham each belted a solo home run off Matusz and, during a three-run burst in the fourth inning, Duncan added an RBI double and Marson contributed a sacrifice fly.

Matusz was sent back to the Minors following the game.

"I think the biggest thing was, there's a lot of guys that put together big days," said Duncan, who has six homers this season. "We went out there and we put a lot of runs on the board this series. It's almost like we started hitting like we're capable of, and I feel like we haven't been doing that for about a month."

Over the course of the four games in Baltimore, Cleveland churned out 32 runs. In the previous six games on this road trip, the Indians managed only 13 runs -- and eight of those came in the final two games against the Yankees.

"It was a nice bounce back to finish a road trip that started in such an ugly way," said Acta, whose club went 1-5 through Houston and New York. "We again swung the bat well early in the game. We had some quality at-bats, and then Masterson was just very good. He was dominant the majority of the game."

Masterson (5-7) picked up the win after holding the Orioles to two runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings of work. Over his past six starts, the big righty has posted a 1.93 ERA for Cleveland, giving up just nine earned runs in 42 innings, with 36 strikeouts against nine walks along the way.

In Sunday's outing, Masterson pounded the strike zone and carried a perfect game into the fifth inning.

"The ball was moving and slicing," Masterson said. "That's what we want it to do. It was really nice."

Baltimore went without a hit against Masterson until two outs in the fifth, when Ryan Flaherty lofted a pitch into shallow center field for an RBI single. Adam Jones, who reached on a fielding error by shortstop Jason Donald earlier in the frame, scored on the play. Jones later added a run-scoring double off Masterson in the sixth inning.

No harm done.

Vinnie Pestano and All-Star closer Chris Perez shut the Orioles' bats down in the eighth and ninth, respectively, to send the Indians back to Cleveland on a high note.

"Our offense came in and scored a bunch of runs," Masterson said. "I think it really gives a boost to the boys as we head back home -- finally."

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