Josh Tomlin earned his 11th win of the season on Friday night, but in truth it was the offense and the Cleveland bullpen that were most responsible for a 6-5 win that moved the Indians a game ahead of the Detroit Tigers, who lost with Justin Verlander on the mound at home to the Chicago White Sox.
Tomlin (11-4, 4.03 ERA) lasted only five innings and allowed all five Orioles’ runs as well as three homers. Tomlin gave up six hits and walked one while striking out three, but thanks to the Tribe taking the lead in the top of the sixth and holding it the rest of the way, Tomlin has now won his last four decisions.
The Indians drew first blood in the second inning off of Orioles’ starter Jake Arrieta when Grady Sizemore led off with a double and scored on a two-out single from Matt LaPorta, but the Orioles came right back in their half when Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold both hit solo shots off of Tomlin to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
Cleveland re-took the lead in the third when Michael Brantley led off with a single and rode home on a two-run jack to the opposite field from Asdrubal Cabrera, putting the Tribe up 3-2.
The homer was Cabrera’s 16th of the season and second in two nights.
Back came Baltimore to tie the game in the bottom of the third on an Adam Jones RBI double with two outs.
In the fifth, with two outs and Travis Hafner on base after walking, Sizemore hit his tenth home run of the season to right-center and the Indians led 5-3. But once again, Tomlin let the Birds right back into the game when Jones hit a two-run blast, tying the game at 5-5.
In the Tribe sixth, Lonnie Chisenhall followed LaPorta’s leadoff double off of reliever Jim Johnson (5-3, 2.82 ERA) with a run-scoring single, and for the fourth time in the game the Indians led. Chisenhall went to second on the throw to the plate, and when Brantley’s single sent Chisenhall to third with nobody out, Cleveland had a real chance to break this one open.
But Johnson bore down, getting A. Cabrera, Hafner and Carlos Santana in order without another run scoring, and Baltimore was still very much alive, trailing 6-5.
Chad Durbin came on for Talbot in the sixth and retired the first two hitters before issuing a walk, On came Rafael Perez to bail Durbin out of the inning, as the bullpen once more assumed control of the game.
Joe Smith worked around a two-out walk in the seventh, striking out two, and Vinnie Pestano came on in the eighth and duplicated Smith’s two K’s, working a one-two-three inning and keeping the Indians’ lead intact.
Chris Perez entered in the bottom of the ninth and immediately got into trouble by issuing a leadoff walk to Reimold. Felix Pie sacrificed Reimold to second, but Perez got pinch-hitter Blake Davis to foul out and closed the game and secured his 22nd save by getting J.J. Hardy to ground out.
Brantley had three hits to lead the Indians, while A. Cabrera, Sizemore, LaPorta and Chisenhall each contributed two hits to the Tribe’s 12-hit attack.
Carlos Carrasco will go for the Indians on Saturday night as the Tribe aims to clinch a series win with a fourth game to follow on Sunday afternoon.