Gonzalez rides power display to win over Tribe
Machado, Cruz each go deep in fifth inning; Pearce goes 3-for-4
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles didn't even know if Manny Machado would be able to play on Sunday after missing two games due to stiffness in his right groin. That uncertainly led manager Buck Showalter to make up two lineups, one with the third baseman and one without.
But after Machado fared nicely in batting practice, Showalter put him into the lineup. The move paid off as Machado hit a tie-breaking homer in the fifth inning. That gave the Orioles the lead for good, and Nelson Cruz added his Major League-best 16th homer later in the inning for a 4-2 victory over the Indians at Camden Yards.
Machado came out of Thursday's series opener in extra innings due to the groin stiffness. He sat out Friday and Saturday before his return gave the Orioles a lift. Machado went 1-for-2 with two walks; the one hit being the leadoff homer that broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth.
Machado admitted he needed to push Showalter a bit to get back into the lineup.
"He came up to me, and obviously, [I] had to go through some baseball activities before I'd be able to go out there and participate in the game," Machado said. "I kind of told him, 'Yeah, put me in there, Skip.'"
Showalter knew that Machado wanted to get back in there. The third baseman already had been making that point.
"He wanted to play yesterday," Showalter said. "He felt good."
The Orioles needed those fifth-inning home runs because starter Miguel Gonzalez gave up two runs and struggled in the first inning. Gonzalez (3-3) needed 23 pitches to get through the frame.
Michael Bourn singled and Carlos Santana followed with a walk before Michael Brantley singled to right, loading the bases with none out. Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Swisher then hit back-to-back sacrifice flies to deep center and right, respectively, to give the Indians a quick 2-0 lead.
But the right-hander gave up just two hits after the first inning and allowed two runs on four hits in his six innings overall. He struck out four but also walked four in winning his second straight start. Still, getting out of the first inning giving up just two runs proved important.
"They were aggressive in the first inning," Gonzalez said. "We want to try to minimize the damage, and that's what we did. We want to go deep in the games."
The Orioles made their way back against Indians starter Trevor Bauer (1-3). Jonathan Schoop's bloop single scored Steve Pearce (3-for-4, one RBI) in the second. Pearce then singled in Cruz with the tying run in the third. Cruz nearly got caught at the plate, but catcher Santana couldn't hold left fielder Brantley's throw while trying to tag the Orioles DH.
Machado led off the fifth with a fly ball to right that kept carrying and just got out of the park, landing on top of the scoreboard to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Cruz then homered to left-center two batters later to put the Orioles up by two.
Cruz now has 16 homers and is second in the Major Leagues with 44 RBIs and said he's enjoying baseball life in Baltimore.
"The more games that I play, the more comfortable I feel," Cruz said. "It's been a blessing to be a part of this team. To be able to contribute and have the team win, it's been good."
Bauer came out after the Cruz homer and lasted just 4 1/3 innings despite throwing well. He struck out eight and walked three, but the Orioles eventually got to him.
"I thought right from the get-go he was having a tough time commanding his fastball," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was in a lot of deep counts. His stuff was good, just a lot of it was elevated. He left some balls over the plate that they hit for the home runs."
The Orioles kept the Indians' bats quiet after that first. Preston Guilmet and Brian Matusz came on after Gonzalez and each threw a scoreless inning before Zach Britton earned his second save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Britton gave the Orioles a brief scare when catching his spike while making a throw to first, but Showalter said the left-hander is fine.
At the end of the day, it turns out that one of the day's biggest moves came before the first pitch, when Machado convinced Showalter to let him play. The third baseman said afterwards that his groin feels fine and is ready to go, something that certainly makes Showalter and the Orioles feel better.
"It actually didn't bother me at all," Machado said. "Everything went well. Everything felt good. [The home run] was the icing on the cake."