BALTIMORE – The Baltimore Orioles aren't hitting, and now their starting pitchers are beginning to struggle, too.
Perhaps the problems are related, because it's pretty tough taking the mound with very little margin for error.
Wei-Yin Chen gave up six runs, and the Orioles mustered only seven hits in a 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.
J.J. Hardy homered for the Orioles, but that was the lone offensive salvo from a team that has now lost seven of nine. Baltimore has scored only 14 runs during the span and is 3 for 52 with runners in scoring position over the last 10 games, including 1 for 5 in this one.
Chen (7-4) allowed six hits, including two homers, in 6 1-3 innings. He didn't blame the offensive woes for his poor performance, but Hardy knows it's tough for a pitcher to take the mound under these circumstances.
One night earlier, staff ace Jason Hammel had his worst outing of the season during a 13-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
"I think anytime our offense isn't scoring runs, it puts more pressure on them, knowing they've got to go out there and throw zeroes," Hardy said. "We need to score some runs. It's what we were doing earlier in the season. It takes more pressure off the pitching, for sure."
Maybe a closed-door meeting will help. That's what the Indians did before the game, and they snapped a five-game losing streak.
More likely, it was Cleveland's three home runs that did the trick.
Johnny Damon and Asdrubal Cabrera hit three-run homers and Shin-Soo Choo had a solo shot to account for all of the Indians' runs.
Damon's drive put the Indians up 3-0 in the second inning, Choo made it 4-0 and Cabrera provided the clincher in the seventh.
"Johnny Damon's three-run homer ... pretty much set the tone for us and gave us some relief from the get-go," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "It was an early lead, and that Cabrera homer was huge, something that we really needed. Choo, obviously. It feels good that we were able to have good at-bats against a left-handed pitcher today."
Cleveland came in 5-16 against left-handed starters, but the Indians had their way against Chen.
"Everything is my fault," Chen said. "I didn't think about the (Baltimore) offense."
Acta held a clubhouse meeting before the game to make sure his players had the proper mindset following their five-game losing streak.
Asked what he told the team, Acta replied, "It's a very long season, a roller coaster where you go up and down. It's about staying positive, sticking together and just making sure that you do what you're supposed to do and not panic."
The Indians responded by coming within one home run of their season high. That, combined with an effective outing by rookie Zach McAllister, put Cleveland back over the .500 mark at 38-37.
"The long ball puts runs on the board," Damon said, "and that's what it did today."
And what of the closed-door session?
"The most important thing with the meeting is to understand slumps happen in this game," Damon said.
Recalled from Triple-A Columbus before the game, McAllister allowed two runs and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings to earn his second big league win. McAllister (2-1) struck out six and walked one in his fifth career start.
"It's definitely exciting to be back up and get off to a good start," the right-hander said.
The Orioles closed to 4-2 in the fifth when Hardy connected after Ryan Flaherty singled. Hardy, who started the game in a 4-for-41 slump, also doubled in the first inning and finished 2 for 4.
But Baltimore continued to struggle with men on base.
"We definitely haven't been hitting with runners in scoring position lately but we've got to keep grinding," Hardy said. "It's one of things where, the more you think about it, the more you try harder and harder. That's not what you need to do. It will turn around eventually."
The Indians pulled away in the seventh. After Lou Marson doubled and Choo walked, Luis Ayala replaced Chen and threw a 2-0 pitch that Cabrera drove over the right-field wall.
NOTES: The Orioles placed DH Nick Johnson on the 15-day DL with a sprained right wrist and recalled OF Xavier Avery from Triple-A Norfolk. Avery started in LF and went 1 for 4. ... To make room for McAllister, Cleveland optioned LHP Scott Barnes to Columbus. ... Jake Arrieta (3-9) will start for the Orioles on Friday against 39-year-old Derek Lowe (7-6). Baltimore manager Buck Showalter has decided upon LHP Dana Eveland as his starter on Saturday. ... Orioles C Matt Wieters got his second career stolen base. ... Cleveland has gone six straight games without an error, one short of matching its season high.