Olson bounces back, but Orioles fall
Rally ties it in seventh before Indians counter in eighth
CLEVELAND -- Garrett Olson could've folded from the pressure, wilting between the conflict from what he can do and what Baltimore wants. Instead, he chose resilience. Olson allowed four first-inning runs Tuesday when the Orioles needed him to work deep in the game, but he stuck around long enough to redeem himself in a 7-5 loss to Cleveland.
Olson worked through the sixth inning and didn't allow any more earned runs, and the Orioles caught up to the Indians at one point. But Cleveland used its early lead as a weapon, adding to the total when it needed it most. The Indians calmly watched as Baltimore tied the game in the seventh before the Tribe went on to take control with two eighth-inning runs.
"It probably would've gotten out of hand real quick if [Olson] didn't settle down. To his credit, he did that," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "The game is dictated by your starting pitcher and the ability or the inability to put zeroes on the board after you score. You saw the flow of the game got more in line with what we're used to after Olson started mixing in his pitches and putting up zeros. We came alive with the bats. That's just the way the game goes."
Trembley, who spoke in the pregame hours of how thin his bullpen was, got the game right where he wanted it in the late innings. Right after his team had tied the game in the seventh, Trembley went to Jim Johnson, who has been Baltimore's most consistent reliever. Johnson (2-4) got out of the inning, only to come back for the eighth.
That's where things got dicey for the rookie, who hadn't pitched more than an inning since July 11. The right-hander hit the first batter of the inning, then watched as Cleveland bunted the runner into scoring position. Asdrubal Cabrera broke the game open with a single, and two batters later, Ben Francisco singled through the infield to score another insurance run.
"[It comes down to] just executing pitches. It doesn't matter how many innings I've thrown," said Johnson of what went wrong in the pivotal eighth-inning ambush. "Instead of going 2-0 on Cabrera and having to throw a fastball, strike one makes a big difference there in that at-bat. And the other single that scored a run, I threw it right down the middle."
"This is team game," added second baseman Brian Roberts. "We've been through plenty of times when we, as a team, weren't hitting. It's not like they quit on us as pitchers. It's just part of the game. We're going to keep battling, keep trying to score runs. If they give 'em up, we're going to try to get them back. I think the biggest thing is you can't press, you can't try too hard. You just have to go out there and try to make your pitches. It's going to turn around eventually."
Olson, whose turn came on the heels of two difficult starts by the Baltimore rotation, had trouble making it out of the first inning. The southpaw allowed five hits and walked a batter, allowing the Indians to score four times in their first at-bat for the second straight night. From there, Olson settled down and pitched the Orioles right back into the game.
But the first inning was where the game turned, a fact that both Olson and Trembley pointed to after the game. The southpaw retired two of the first three batters he faced, but then he allowed five straight Indians to reach base. Four of those batters reached on singles, and Olson said his dominant memory of the night would involve that five-hitter span.
"Obviously, I still have a bitter taste. I'm not pleased with what happened that first inning," he said. "I felt like when I got to two outs, I should have closed it right there, and I didn't. As a result, I put the team in a hole. It's hard to come back. Even though we did come back and tie the game, it probably would have been a different story if that didn't happen."
"You come out and you're swinging the bats real well," added Trembley. "You put two runs on the board and you line out three times. Then you go out and you get two outs and you can't get the third one. His pitch count comes up. And after that, Olson mixed up his breaking pitches and had some success. But in the first inning, his fastball command wasn't there."
The Orioles (56-62) played catchup for most of the night and finally tied the game in the seventh. Luke Scott doubled off Masa Kobayashi in that rally and scored the tying run on a single by Nick Markakis. Baltimore had also scored twice in the first inning and once more in the fifth, using a sacrifice fly by Markakis in the latter rally to pull to within two runs.
Cleveland, meanwhile, had trouble adding runs. The Indians (54-64) added an insurance run in the fourth, but it took a rare double-error charged to third baseman Melvin Mora to do it. Olson struck out the side in the fifth inning and retired seven of the final nine batters he faced before handing to the Baltimore bullpen, which allowed the back-breaking run.
"I'd say that's my mind-set every time I go out, but I knew it was imperative that I could stay out there and go at least six or seven and save a couple of arms out there," Olson said. "Only a couple of arms haven't thrown. It's just one of those things. After the first inning, I came around. I just realized I had to go back out there and keep battling."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.