It’s safe to say the Cleveland Guardians’ bats are awake.
The Guardians set a season-high in hits and tied a season-high in runs in Wednesday’s wild 12-8 win over the Baltimore Orioles, securing back-to-back series wins for the first time since April 5.
Josh Naylor was the straw that stirred the drink for Cleveland, going 4-for-5 with a game-tying two-run home run and a go-ahead bases-clearing RBI double.
The action WILL NOT stop in this game!— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 31, 2023
Josh Naylor gives Cleveland back the lead with a bases clearing double! pic.twitter.com/M23CcZ63Ks
The Guardians struck first in what was a bullpen game for the Orioles, who gave left-handed reliever Keegan Akin the starting nod. He surrendered a one-out RBI double to José Ramírez in the first inning, scoring Steven Kwan from first and spotting Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
Cleveland starter Shane Bieber retired the first five batters he faced, then lost his bearings.
He issued back-to-back walks to Aaron Hicks and Ryan O’Hearn with two outs in the second inning, though he may have been squeezed a bit by the home plate umpire. Facing the bottom of the Orioles’ order, Bieber saw Jorge Mateo bloop an RBI single into no man’s land in right field to tie the game. The very next pitch, No. 9 hitter Ryan McKenna lined a two-run single to center field. After Adam Frazier doubled into the corner in right field to put runners on second and third, Bieber tried to glove a groundball from Adley Rutschman but ended up deflecting it, allowing him to reach base for an infield RBI single and make it a 4-1 lead for Baltimore.
The Guardians managed to respond in the third inning by cutting the deficit to 4-3, plating a pair of runs on a two-out single by Andrés Giménez with the bases loaded.
But in the bottom of the third, the third out of the inning once again proved elusive for Bieber. After a two-out single by Hicks, O’Hearn extended the lead to 5-3 with an RBI double.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde pulled the plug on right-hander Austin Voth in the fourth inning with one out and Kwan at first. Left-hander Cionel Perez got José Ramírez to foul out for the second out of the inning but then Josh Naylor tied the game on a two-run shot to center field. Josh Bell followed with his first home run since April 29 to give Cleveland a 6-5 lead.
Unfortunately — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — the third out in an inning bedeviled Shane Bieber. After striking out the first two batters in the fourth inning, Bieber thought he had a 1-2-3 inning in the bag until Rutschman beat out a slow grounder to Amed Rosario for another infield single. Predictably, this had unfortunate consequences, as Anthony Santander proceeded to crush a four-seam fastball to re-take the lead on a two-run homer.
Bieber’s day was done after that inning, having allowed eight hits, two walks, and seven earned runs. All seven of the Orioles’ runs against him came with two outs.
In the fifth, the Guardians went back to work. Cam Gallagher led off the inning with a loud double into left field, followed by a Kwan single and a walk by Rosario to load the bases. Hyde brought in Michael Baumann to try and defuse the situation. He nearly succeeded by first striking out Ramírez, but Naylor wasn’t about to let him off the hook. His third hit of the day was a bases-clearing double off the wall in center field, giving Cleveland a fresh 9-7 lead.
With two outs in the inning, Gabriel Arias launched a two-run homer 441 feet to left-center. It was a five-run inning for the Guardians, who rode the offensive explosion to an 11-7 lead over Baltimore.
The back-and-forth continued into the bottom of the fifth inning, even with Xzavion Curry on the mound in relief of Bieber. Curry walked Gunnar Henderson to lead off the inning and then saw him advance to third on a single up the middle by Hicks. O’Hearn proceeded to ground into a run-scoring fielder’s choice, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 11-8.
Sam Hentges managed to stop the bleeding in the sixth inning, working around another Rutschman infield single and a walk to Ryan Mountcastle to hold the Orioles scoreless for a frame. The Guardians’ lineup capitalized the next inning, with Naylor claiming his sixth RBI of the day on an RBI single to score Ramírez from second and make it a 12-8 advantage.
Enyel De Los Santos pitched the seventh inning, Trevor Stephan took care of the eighth, and Emmanuel Clase closed it out in the ninth to put away Baltimore.