The Indians played well for the first half of today's game in Baltimore, then watched the Orioles score in each of their last four at bats, as the Tribe fell back into a tie for first place with the Detroit Tigers, losing to the Birds 8-3 for a split of their four-game series.
The way this one started, it looked like Cleveland might be on their way to winning the series, but first-inning highlights were tempered by a first-inning lowlight, and the Tribe never was able to get things rolling again.
With two outs in the first, Travis Hafner belted his ninth home run with a drive to right-center that just made it into the first row of the seats for a 1-0 Indians' lead. The very next batter, Carlos Santana, hit his 15th, a no-doubter as far as distance, leaving the park down the right field line, but only ruled a homer after review of the drive that sailed far over the foul pole.
Then Grady Sizemore hit a bloop to left and seemed to come up lame twice on his way to second, where he slid in safely for a double. Sizemore tried to run it off in the outfield, but had to be pulled from the game with what is being called a bruise to the same right knee that disabled him earlier this season.
Two batters later Matt LaPorta drove home pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera with a single and the Tribe was on top 3-0.
For four innings Jeanmar Gomez (0-2, 5.70 ERA) made most of the lead hold up. Baltimore did score in the second when Adam Jones homered to make it 3-1, but halfway through, the Tribe was still looking good.
But it is worth noting that the Indians stranded two in the second when Santana struck out and stranded two more in the third when Lonnie Chisenhall fanned, ending Orioles' starter Mitch Atkins' day.
Then in the fifth the Tribe stranded two more off of reliever (and winner) Mark Hendrickson (1-0, 4.50 ERA) when Travis Buck grounded into a double play with runners at first and second.
Baltimore took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Matt Wieters singled leading off, and -- after Derrek Lee struck out -- Mark Reynolds singled, putting runners at first and second.
Then Robert Andino cleared the bases with a three-run blast, and just like that, Baltimore led 4-3.
Gomez started the Baltimore sixth, but, with one out, Nick Markakis went deep, making if 5-3 Orioles and ending Gomez's day. Jeanmar ended up surrendering five runs on six hits, walking none and fanning two, but allowing three long balls.
Chad Durbin came on for the Indians and retired the side without allowing a baserunner, but in the seventh, Joe Smith entered and gave up his first earned runs since May 8 -- a span of 27 appearances.
But first the Tribe blew a golden opportunity in the top of the seventh.
Against new reliever Michael Gonzales -- who saved Saturday's Baltimore win -- Santana singled with one out, and Carrera followed with a base hit, moving Santana to second.
That was all for Gonzales, as Jim Johnson came on for the Orioles. Johnson was greeted by the Indians' third straight hit, a single by LaPorta, and the bases were loaded with the Indians down two.
But Buck grounded into a fielder's choice, retiring Santana at the plate, and when Chisenhall struck out, the threat was history.
Then came Baltimore's rally against Smith that put the game away.
Lee doubled leading off, and after Reynolds' ground out sent Lee to third, Andino reached on an error on LaPorta at first, scoring Lee and sending Andino to second. After a ground out and a walk, J.J. Hardy gave the Orioles a 7-3 advantage with a single to center. Smith was able to retire Markakis, but the damage was done.
Frank Herrmann came on for the Indians in the eighth and gave up a homer to Wieters for the final margin.
After their aborted rally in the seventh, the Tribe went quietly in both the eighth and the ninth, being retired in order in both frames against Johnson (in the eighth) and Koji Uehara in the ninth.
Cleveland ended up with 10 hits in the game, with Santana, Buck and Luis Valbuena all pitching in with a pair, but the Tribe stranded 11, and that isn't getting it done against a Baltimore team that is buried in the cellar of the AL East.
The Tigers, after being behind the White Sox early, 3-0, came back to win 4-3, leaving both the Indians and Detroit five games over .500. Detroit is off tomorrow, and should Cleveland split its day/night doubleheader in Minnesota, the Tribe and Tigers would each be 50-45.
The first game of tomorrow's split twin-bill will see the Indians sending David Huff at 1:10, while Fausto Carmona comes back from the disabled list to make the start at 8:10.