Wasted at-bats cost O's chance at sweep
Millwood rebounds, but Baltimore now 8-2 under Showalter
CLEVELAND -- There were several missed offensive opportunities, early laboring by their starter and a general lack of spark exhibited by the Orioles on Thursday night. Simply put, they looked nothing like the effervescent, productive team that entered the game flying high at 8-1 under manager Buck Showalter.
Instead, it seemed it was the O's of old who fell, 4-1, to the Indians in a winnable contest that had a familiar feel of frustration, the kind of loss nearly forgotten since Showalter stepped in. And the O's new manager -- who first saw Thursday's starter, Jeanmar Gomez, in 2007 while serving as a special assistant in the Indians' organization -- was the first to point out how this one slipped away.
"We wanted to win this game," Showalter said of the would-be series sweep. "We wanted to win all three and we had an opportunity. We got a well-pitched game. I'm disappointed about that. We need to take better advantage of our at-bats."
The 22-year-old Gomez, making just his fourth career start, held the O's to just one hit -- Nick Markakis' single -- in the first four innings before Baltimore finally plated a run in the sixth. In that frame, rookie Josh Bell doubled and two outs later scored on Ty Wigginton's base hit up the middle. Indians manager Manny Acta came out for a brief mound meeting with Gomez, who fell behind Luke Scott, 2-0, but came back to even the count and induce a ground ball.
"He hasn't been intimidated by anything up here so far," Acta said of Gomez, who went 8-8 with a 5.20 ERA for Triple-A Columbus and was promoted due to injuries and ineffectiveness in the Indians' rotation. "There are times out there when he looks he's probably better off down there developing and all that, but he's pitched well four times for us now. He just continues to go out there and pitch fearlessly."
Adam Jones opened the seventh with a bunt single that spelled the end of Gomez's day, with the rookie being pulled in favor of reliever Rafael Perez. Pie's hustle avoided the double play, but Perez struck out Wieters and got Izturis to ground out to quash the threat.
"We just didn't get it going," said Jones, who recorded one of the Orioles' six hits off Gomez, who held Triple-A batters to a .284 batting average. "Basically, he threw his sinker all game and it was working for him. I wish we got the opportunity to see him again, but we don't. I feel if we got to see him again, we'd probably get him out of the game pretty early."
Instead, Gomez turned in six innings of one-run baseball and became the fourth starting pitcher in Indians history to win three of his first four starts, lowering his ERA to 1.54 in the process.
"Any time you see a young pitcher, you can only look at so much tape to prepare," said Showalter, who remembers sending in a positive report when he first saw Gomez throw for Class A Lake County. "He had good late life on his fastball and he got a lot of outs on the ground. He pounded the strike zone, too. I was impressed by him."
As for Orioles starter Kevin Millwood, who quipped he picked the wrong night to pitch, first impressions were deceiving.
Millwood allowed a first-inning run for the 12th time in 14 starts as the Indians opened the game with singles from Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera. He retired the next two batters and had a chance to escape the inning unscathed, but Trevor Crowe beat out a ball to shortstop Cesar Izturis' backhand to score Brantley. The Tribe tacked on runs in the second and third, respectively, off Millwood, who battled to give the Orioles seven innings, turning in the team's ninth quality start in 10 games under Showalter.
"He pitched well enough for us to win, that goes without saying," said Showalter, who suffered his second loss at the helm. "That's the Kevin I remember. He kept us in the ballgame and didn't give in."
Just a night removed from Brad Bergesen's dominant two-hit complete game, Millwood needed 48 pitches to get through the first two innings, giving up two runs on five hits, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch over that span. He allowed just one run on four hits in the five innings that followed.
"To be able to keep both of those [early] innings to one run, I felt like I'm at least keeping us in the ballgame right now," said Millwood, who suffered his American League-leading 12th loss despite posting his second consecutive quality start.
"All in all, I feel OK about it. I guess I just got to pick a better night to pitch, when we score more runs."
The O's appeared to dodge a bullet when red-hot Pie singled with two outs into the fifth -- just out of reach of first baseman Matt LaPorta's glove -- but came up limping on a ball that television replays showed hit his left foot. Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and Showalter both came out to check on Pie, who remained in the game.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.