Tribe trying to avoid sweep with Masterson
Tommy Hunter shrugged off a recent demotion to the minors to pitch a solid outing and help the Baltimore Orioles get started on their current surge.
The right-hander will look to build off that performance as Baltimore seeks a season-best sixth straight victory and its first four-game road sweep of the Cleveland Indians in more than 40 years Monday night.
A stint in the bullpen and three starts for Triple-A Norfolk seemed to do the trick for Hunter (4-4, 5.71 ERA), who allowed one run and six hits over a season-high 7 1-3 innings of Wednesday's 2-1 win over Minnesota, the first of five consecutive victories for the Orioles (51-44).
Hunter had gone 1-2 with an 8.16 ERA in his last seven appearances - five starts - before being sent to the minors after he was tagged for five runs and eight hits in a 1 2-3 innings of relief against the Indians on June 30.
"To come back up here and do that, hold them to one run ... he threw a great game for us, much needed," Mark Reynolds told the team's official website.
Hunter didn't earn a decision in his last start against the Indians despite giving up five runs in 5 1-3 innings while pitching for Texas on Sept. 8, 2009. He'll look to help Baltimore complete its first four-game sweep in Cleveland since Sept. 24-26, 1971, after the Orioles held on for a 4-3 victory Sunday.
J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs to extend his hitting streak to six games, and Zach Britton pitched six scoreless innings.
Despite allowing a run during Cleveland's three-run ninth inning, Jim Johnson got the final two outs and notched his major league-best 30th save for Baltimore, which hasn't won four straight overall meetings with Cleveland since 1993.
"All our guys made big pitches," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can doubt yourself, but when it hurts the most is when you go back to the hotel or apartment and say, `I wish I hadn't been so timid there.' Go after them. They did."
The Indians have lost four straight and have fallen below .500 for the first time since they were 3-4 on April 14. Carlos Santana had three hits - including a two-run homer - for Cleveland (47-48), which is 4 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
The Indians have been outscored 23-6 while hitting .202 during their skid.
"We continue to struggle offensively, but the sun is going to come up tomorrow," manager Manny Acta said. "We still have over 60 games to go. Things can change in a heartbeat. Every day is a new day."
Cleveland will look to avoid being swept at home for the first time this season with the help of Justin Masterson, who has been solid recently versus the Orioles.
Masterson (6-8, 4.29) has won his last three starts with a 2.70 ERA against Baltimore after giving up one earned run in seven innings of a 6-2 road victory July 1. He's been inconsistent this month, though, going 2-1 with a 5.16 ERA in four starts, including giving up four runs in 4 1-3 innings of Cleveland's 10-6 win at Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
The right-hander had won two straight home starts before allowing a career high-tying eight runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss to the Rays on July 6.
Baltimore's Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are a combined 5 for 36 lifetime against Masterson.