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Indians take aim at series win over Orioles

The Cleveland Indians hope to move closer to the top of the AL Central when they aim for a series win over the Baltimore Orioles Thursday in the finale of a four-game set at Camden Yards.

The Indians are 2 1/2 games behind a Detroit Tigers club that can't seem to solve the LA Angels of Anaheim, who have beaten the AL Central leaders eight straight times. The Angels and Tigers will close their series Thursday.

Cleveland has taken two of the first three meetings with Baltimore, including Wednesday's 4-3 win thanks to a pair of runs in the top of the ninth. Michael Brantley and Mike Aviles both scored on a fielder's choice.

Vinnie Pestano took the mound in the bottom half and shut the Orioles down in order for his fifth save. Scott Kazmir was sharp through seven innings and limited the hosts to a run and a hit with four strikeouts and a walk. Back spasms prevented Kazmir from taking the hill in the eighth.

"I'll be good to go," Kazmir said. "It's just something that was more frustrating and irritating than anything."

Joe Smith earned the win even though he allowed two runs and three hits in the eighth inning.

"This was one of those games where it would've been a killer loss, but it ends up being a great win," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Jason Kipnis hit a two-run homer and veteran slugger Jason Giambi provided a pair of hits for the Indians, winners in 10 of their last 14 games. Asdrubal Cabrera was activated off the disabled list before the game and went 1-for-3 with a run scored. He had been bothered by a strained quadriceps.

In other injury news, closer Chris Perez is expected to be activated off the DL because of a right shoulder injury. Perez hasn't pitched since May 26, a 6-5 loss at Boston in which he allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning.

"He's going to join us tomorrow," Francona said on Wednesday.

The Tribe will continue this 11-game road trip with a four-game weekend set against the Chicago White Sox, followed by a three-game series at Kansas City.

Corey Kluber draws the start for Francona's club and will put his three-game winning streak on the line. Kluber previously toed the rubber in last Saturday's 8-7 win over Minnesota and yielded three runs in 5 2/3 innings. He improved to 6-4 in 13 games (11 starts) to go along with a 3.68 ERA.

Kluber, a right-hander, has never faced the Orioles and is 4-2 on the road.

Baltimore has lost five of six games and fell 3 1/2 games behind Boston for the AL East lead. The New York Yankees also lost on Wednesday and sit even with the Orioles in the standings.

Jason Hammel pitched well in the no-decision and only allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings. Jim Johnson was dealt the loss for giving up the go-ahead runs in the ninth. Johnson spoiled Baltimore's two-run rally in the eighth that gave the club a short-lived 3-2 lead.

"It's not just Jimmy," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "We had a tough time solving Kazmir. Jimmy's been solid for us. He's a rock. And he'll be back, and pitch, and be a part of contributing hopefully to a good club. Tonight, he elevated the ball a little bit the first couple hitters, and then he pitched real well after that."

Manny Machado ended 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in defeat.

The Orioles will host the Yankees for three games this weekend, but hope Miguel Gonzalez can pitch them to a series split with Cleveland. Gonzalez had a three-game winning streak stopped in last Saturday's 4-2 loss at Toronto and permitted three runs in 7 1/3 innings.

Gonzalez, a right-hander, is now 5-3 in 13 starts with a 3.75 earned run average and has made two career appearances (1 start) against the Indians, going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

The Orioles and Indians split eight matchups a season ago.