The Orioles try to distance themselves from the Indians when these teams open a pivotal three-game set Monday at Progressive Field.
After dropping four of five to begin a nine-game trip, Baltimore salvaged Sunday's finale against the New York Yankees with a thrilling 7-3 victory. J.J. Hardy hit a go-ahead three-run homer and Adam Jones followed with a three-run shot of his own as the Orioles put together a seven-run seventh inning.
"Hopefully, it jump-starts us in September," said Hardy, whose team remains 8 1/2 games behind East-leading Boston.
Sunday's win, though, moved Baltimore (72-63) into third place in the wild-card standings, three games back of second-place Tampa Bay. The Indians (72-64), meanwhile, are in a fourth-place tie with New York, one-half game behind the Orioles.
Cleveland returns home after concluding a 1-5 trek with Sunday's 4-0 win over Detroit. Mike Aviles provided all the offense with a ninth-inning grand slam as the Indians climbed within 7 1/2 games of the Central-leading Tigers.
"We needed this game because we've had a tough road trip," said manager Terry Francona , whose team is 10-15 since Aug. 5. "We want to keep playing until they make us stop."
The Indians will look for their momentum to carry over against Orioles starter Bud Norris (3-1, 4.91 ERA), who is 3-0 in six starts since he was acquired from Houston on July 31. After giving up a season high-tying seven runs in 4 2-3 innings in a 9-7 win over Oakland on Aug. 23, Norris yielded one run and four hits in 5 1-3 innings of Wednesday's 4-3 loss at Boston.
"These guys scored some runs early to give me a little cushion, so my focus is putting up a zero on every scoreboard, every half inning," said Norris, who left with a 3-1 lead. "As long as I could go and, (manager) Buck (Showalter), he made the decision and I'm OK with it, handing the ball off to the bullpen. I feel confident doing that every time."
Norris, set to make his first appearance versus Cleveland, posted a 2.20 ERA in three road starts last month.
The Indians counter with Justin Masterson (14-9, 3.49), who has gone 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his last two outings despite walking nine in 12 2-3 innings. The All-Star right-hander yielded two runs in six innings of Wednesday's 3-2 walkoff loss at Atlanta.
"When our ace goes out and gives us strong innings, we've got to find a way to get a W," said Aviles, referring to Masterson.
Masterson had a 2.30 ERA in winning four consecutive starts versus the Orioles before surrendering six runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss at Baltimore on June 25. While Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis are a combined 13 for 68 (.191) versus Masterson, Alexi Casilla is 6 for his last 14 with two homers, a double and a triple in their matchups.
Hardy has hit safely in each of his 14 games in Cleveland, batting .310, but he's 2 for his last 9 against Masterson.
Orioles outfielder Michael Morse , acquired from Seattle on Friday, went 2 for 4 with a run in his team debut.
|September 01, 2013||Eric Beaulac||60-Day DL||Torn labrum, right hip|
|August 28, 2013||Steve Pearce||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 16, 2013||Francisco Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 14, 2013||Nolan Reimold||60-Day DL||Nerve inflammation in cervical spine|
|June 21, 2013||Michael Morse||15-Day DL||Strained right quad|
|August 30, 2013||Scott Barnes||60-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|August 28, 2013||Cord Phelps||60-Day DL||Right wrist inflammation|
|August 19, 2013||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Strained left Achilles|
|August 06, 2013||Corey Kluber||15-Day DL||Sprained finger, right hand|
|July 20, 2013||Corey Kluber||Day-to-Day||Left hip tightness|
|June 04, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||15-Day DL||Right quadriceps strain|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Justin Masterson 's health is in serious doubt. The Indians' playoff chances are just as iffy.
Masterson was pulled from his start in the second inning with soreness in his left side and Cleveland's hitters stayed in a collective slump Monday night with a 7-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles , one of the teams the Indians are scrapping with for the AL wild card.
Masterson felt tightness in his side in the first inning, and after applying a heat ointment between innings, Cleveland's All-Star ace took the mound in the second thinking he would be able to continue.
But after a few pitches, his outing was done - and it's possible his season could be over as well.
"It just tightened up on me," Masterson (14-10) said. "I went out to throw and it was like, `Oh, boy.' I couldn't get through a pitch. I was trying to sink `em in there, but it wasn't going to work."
Masterson will undergo an MRI and other tests Tuesday. Those results could determine whether the Indians will continue to battle for one of two playoff spots.
"Hopefully it's nothing serious," All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "Definitely love to have the big fella out there for us. He's our ace."
Bud Norris (10-10) stayed unbeaten as a starter with Baltimore and Nate McLouth homered and had three RBIs as the Orioles moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Indians in the wild-card standings.
Norris allowed one run - a homer to Kipnis in the seventh - and four hits in seven innings. The right-hander improved to 4-0 in seven starts with the Orioles, who acquired him at the July 31 trading deadline from Houston.
Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer in the ninth and Brian Roberts drove in two runs for the Orioles, who didn't take any satisfaction in not having to face Masterson for more than two innings.
"You hate to see that," McLouth said. "I feel really bad for him. He can go through stretches of a game where he's so dominant. It does make a difference."
Masterson said it's possible he could only miss a few days and that some rest will help. However, he also realizes the tests could reveal something more significant.
"It's not the best-case scenario," he said. "So if it is any more serious than I think it is, we have some good guys in place that can do a lot of work. We're hoping things will be all right. We have a lot of guys coming up who can help out and do a good job.
"I think you're going to see the guys really battle over the next 25 games that we got.
"That's going to show up whether I'm here or not."
With just one month left, the Indians aren't going to take any chances with Masterson, their leader in wins, innings and just about everything else.
"It's hard to quantify," Indians manager Terry Francona said when asked about Masterson's value. "He's our best pitcher. But when things don't go your way, you can either feel sorry for yourselves or you can find a way to shine. I hope that we are able to come back, whether it takes everybody in the bullpen or guys on the bench, keep fighting.
"That's the best way to do it."
After dropping two of three in Boston and New York, the Orioles, who staggered through a 12-14 August, arrived in Cleveland needing to string some wins together.
"I knew that schedule was going to be a challenge," manager Buck Showalter said before the game. "We're .500 in our last 10 games. Is it half full or half empty?"
Norris provided some more optimism, striking out eight and keeping his record unblemished in seven starts since joining Baltimore. He allowed just one hit through five innings, and picked Michael Brantley off second in the second.
The Indians are sliding in the wrong direction.
They went 1-5 on a trip to Atlanta and Detroit, only salvaging the finale Sunday thanks to a ninth-inning grand slam by Mike Aviles to beat the Tigers.
Masterson initially showed discomfort while working to Wieters leading off the second. He grimaced and flared his elbow at his side, a motion that sent Francona to the mound accompanied by a trainer.
The right-hander stayed in the game, but after allowing a single to Wieters, he threw an 87 mph fastball to Nick Markakis and paused.
Catcher Carlos Santana headed to the mound and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera immediately waved toward the dugout, bringing Francona again.
He took the ball from Masterson, who dejectedly walked off the field and then disgustedly tossed a cup of water in the dugout before heading to the clubhouse.
"There wasn't any pull or anything like that that I'm aware of," Masterson said. "We're going to get a few more things checked out over the next couple days."
Preston Guilmet replaced Masterson and gave up a single to Markakis. With one out, McLouth hit an apparent RBI double to center.
However, the Indians won an appeal that Markakis missed second base, and under rule 10.05, McLouth was not awarded a hit on the play because it was a forceout.
After Guilmet walked No. 9 hitter Alexi Casilla , Roberts hit a two-run double to make it 3-0.
NOTES: Indians RHP Corey Kluber , sidelined since Aug. 6 with a sprained middle finger, will pitch in relief Friday after Scott Kazmir starts against the Mets. Kluber pitched a simulated game Monday, and because he hasn't pitched in some time, the Indians want to be conservative with him. Also, the club is concerned about overworking Kazmir. "I think it has a chance to help us win, help both pitchers and help the bullpen," Francona said. ... Indians OF Ryan Raburn is expected to be activated Tuesday after being sidelined with a pulled calf muscle. ... With his next homer, Hardy will become the fourth active shortstop and ninth since 1901 to record three or more seasons with 25 or more homers.