CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cleveland Guardians scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2, in Thursday night’s series opener at Progressive Field.
The Guardians (73-81) kept their hopes of winning the AL Central title alive for another day, with the Minnesota Twins (who were off on Thursday) still one game away from clinching the division.
Cleveland began its late-game break in the 8th by loading the bases against Baltimore reliever Cionel Perez. Perez (4-2) would be replaced by Jacob Webb, who then walked Ramon Laureano to draw the go-ahead run.
Bo Naylor later drove in a run on a dropped pop-up by sprinting O’s second baseman Adam Frazier, while a Gabriel Arias groundout allowed Myles Straw to score from third base.
“We didn’t chase at that point,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said after the game. “We had, at times, but we didn’t chase it. So, we had some baserunners because of it.”
Cleveland also overcame a shortened start by right-hander Hunter Gaddis, who left the game after the 3rd inning after taking an Adley Rutschman ground ball to the leg.
“He took a pretty good shot,” Francona explained on Gaddis. “He’s got a pretty big bruise that caught the meat of his calf, but, I’m guessing that didn’t feel too good.”
Guardians reliever Trevor Stephan (7-7) earned the relief win despite allowing a pair of game-tying runs to Baltimore in the top of the 8th - which included an Anthony Santander RBI groundout and a scoring double by Ryan O’Hearn.
Cleveland jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the 5th inning on a José Ramírez RBI single (Ramírez’s 79th of the year), followed by a Josh Naylor sacrifice fly.
Emmanuel Clase earned his 42nd save of the season by closing out the game in the top of the 9th inning.
The Orioles (95-58) now sit 1.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East. Both teams have already clinched a playoff spot.
Friday will see the return of Guardians ace Shane Bieber, who will make his first start since Jul. 9 after recovering from an elbow injury. Bieber (5-6, 3.77 ERA) is expected to face O’s right-hander Dean Kremer (12-5, 4.17 ERA).