The Indians had just enough power and plenty enough pitching this afternoon, and the end result was the third sweep of the season in only five series played, as the Tribe beat Baltimore at Progressive Field, 4-2, giving Fausto Carmona his first win of the season and sending the Orioles to their seventh straight defeat.
Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner homered for the Indians, and that was good enough — especially for Santana, trying to bust out of a slump. But the biggest news of the day was that Grady Sizemore returned to the lineup for the first time since last May and also homered, in his second at bat of the season. It was Sizemore’s first jack since August of 2009 and gave the Tribe a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Sizemore also doubled in the fifth, and his two hits matched Hafner’s two, as the Indians made the most of seven hits in total, beating Baltimore’s Brad Bergesen (0-2, 3.38 ERA).
After Santana went deep in the second with his second round-tripper of 2011, and Sizemore doubled the lead in the third, the Orioles got a run back in the fourth against Carmona (1-2, 4.74 ERA), when the first two hitters reached on base hits. But Carmona made a good pitch to get Derrek Lee to hit into a double play, with a run scoring but clearing the bases. In other words, minimizing the damage.
The Tribe got that run right back in the bottom of the fourth when Travis Buck singled in Orlando Cabrera to make it 3-1. Cabrera was only in scoring position because of being able to take second when Mark Reynolds misplayed Cabrera’s hit, and Buck came through in the clutch.
It stayed 3-1 until the sixth, when Hafner hit homer number four of the year off of Jeremy Accardo.
In the seventh, Baltimore got an unearned run when the first two hitters reached and moved up on an error by Shin-Soo Choo in right field. The Orioles capitalized with a sac fly off the bat of Luke Scott, but that was all Baltimore could get.
Carmona’s line was excellent for the third straight start. In seven innings, Fausto allowed two runs — only one earned — on five hits, walking one and striking out five on 101 pitches.
Tony Sipp, who has been perfect as a set-up man so far this season, allowed a hit in the eighth but did not allow a run. Sipp has now pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings and has six “holds” on the season.
Then Chris Perez came out and shut the Orioles down one-two-three in the ninth for his fifth save of the season. Perez has now gone 7 1/3 innings and has surrendered only two hits and no runs on the year.
What a one-two punch at the back end of the pen!
Cleveland now goes to Kansas City to take on the Royals in a four-game set. The Indians were able to claim sole possession of first place late this afternoon when the Royals lost to Seattle, leaving K.C. at 10-5 and a full game behind the Tribe. Thus, a mere split of the set in Kansas City would leave Cleveland in first, as nobody else in the division is close enough to “catch” the Indians should they win two of their next four.
But we wouldn’t mind three-of-four. Or (dare we wish for it?) another sweep. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves.
For now, it feels good enough to say that Your Cleveland Indians are the leaders of the American League Central.