Published August 15, 2014
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Baltimore Orioles look to pad their lead in the American League East standings on Friday when they visit Progressive Field to kick off a three-game set with the Cleveland Indians.
Baltimore has won eight of its last 10 to extend its division lead to 7 1/2 games over Toronto. The Orioles took two games from the New York Yankees this week in a rain-shortened series.
Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones both went deep as part of a four-run eighth inning in Wednesday's 5-3 victory. Starter Chris Tillman twirled seven innings of two-run ball to keep the team in it until the eighth inning fireworks.
This marks the start of a nine-game road swing for the Orioles, who will also face both the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago during the trip.
Cleveland has lost five of eight after Wednesday's 1-0 setback to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 12 innings. Although the Indians' pitchers held their own, the offense was unable to generate any runs off D-backs starter Andrew Chafin, who was making his big league debut.
The Tribe entered Friday 5 1/2 games out of the AL's second wild card spot, with four teams standing in their way. However, two-time All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder Michael Bourn is set to return from the disabled list, where he has been since June 6 with a hamstring injury.
"That's how much talent I think we have," Bourn said. "We're in the thick of things and, for the most part, we haven't had our team on the field. I've been down. (Nick Swisher) has been down. (David Murphy) is down. (Jason Kipnis) was down a little bit. But we just continue to battle and continue to play as hard as we can.
"We've got good depth on our team. We'll just try to take advantage of that and hopefully make a late push and try to get back into those playoffs."
For Friday's opener, the Tribe will turn to Corey Kluber, who is perhaps the hottest pitcher in baseball at the moment. The right-hander is 13-6 with a 2.46 ERA on the season and has been even better over his last seven outings, posting a 6-0 record and a 1.33 ERA to creep into the AL Cy Young conversation.
Most recently, Kluber tossed six shutout innings against the Yankees on Saturday, as he allowed only four hits and struck out 10 while walking just one batter.
"Just stick with my same approach," Kluber said of his plan on the mound. "Maybe just executing a little better."
For Baltimore, Wei-Yin Chen looks to get back on track after having his personal five-game winning streak snapped in Toronto on Wednesday. Chen gave up four runs on eight hits in that one, and it was only the second time since June he did not pitch into the sixth inning.
These teams have split four meetings so far this season.