CLEVELAND -- Here’s something that hasn’t been said often this season: The Indians slugged their way to a victory.
Cleveland’s struggling offense overcame a poor outing from right-hander Trevor Bauer and won a back-and-forth battle against Baltimore, 14-7 Thursday night, in the opener a four-game series at Progressive Field.
Jason Kipnis hit his first two home runs of the season and drove in a career-high six runs for the Indians, who scored first on the second baseman’s solo shot in the opening inning, then had to rally twice to regain the lead.
Cleveland scored two in the sixth inning, plating the game-winning run on Carlos Santana’s sharp single off second baseman Jonathan Villar’s glove.
The Indians put the game away with a five-run seventh, reaching season highs in runs and hits (14).
“I thought as a group, I thought we played with some personality tonight,” manager Terry Francona said. “We got down early and instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, they kept fighting and good things happened. We ran the bases really well, we were aggressive, swung at strikes. That’s a hard game to win when you’re down 5-1 so early.”
The offensive surge was required after another poor outing from Bauer, who allowed seven earned runs and two home runs over five innings, walking four batters and striking out three.
After allowing two or fewer runs in five of his first six starts, Bauer has surrendered four or more in three of his last four outings, including a career-high seven earned runs twice. He’s walked 12 batters over the four-start span and allowed multiple homers in an outing for the third time.
“There were a lot of deep counts and what, I think four walks. It just didn’t seem like he was throwing the ball where he wanted to,” Francona said. “His stuff’s fine. He just, the command wasn’t very good.”
“I’m not exactly sure what the biggest problem I have right now is. That’s definitely one of them,” Bauer said of his command issues. “I gotta be better. My teammates, the organization, the fans depend on me, count on me to go out there and be better than I am right now. I need to live up to those expectations.”
Kipnis, who opened the season on the injured list and has struggled mightily since his activation, produced the fifth multihomer game of his career and the first since May 14, 2017, against the Twins.
He hit a three-run homer to put the Indians in front 6-5 in the fourth, then added two more RBIs on a bizarre fielder’s choice grounder that Baltimore botched severely in the seventh.
“I think we all know I’m never too far off,” Kipnis said. “Sometimes if you’re not getting the results or seeing the results out of me, you know that this is a slight adjustment of the barrel that’s keeping me from taking off sometimes. But I think I’ve been going in the right direction leading up to games like this usually. So there’s usually signs that lets me know that we’re going in the right direction, I guess, that I’ve been working on the right things.”
The top four hitters in the order, Francisco Lindor, Kipnis, Santana and Carlos Gonzalez combined for nine of their team’s hits and 11 of its 13 RBIs.
Cleveland got stifling relief work from A.J. Cole, Tyler Olson, Nick Wittgren and Oliver Perez, who combined to hold the Orioles scoreless over the final four innings on five hits.
Despite the subpar effort, Bauer was able to reach a positive milestone, recording the 1,000th strikeout of his career.
Kipnis said the Indians got a boost from Francona, who held a team meeting prior to the opener of an 11-game homestand.
“He just said, ‘Hey, you might not be able to always control the results, but lets control our hustle. Let’s control doing the little things.’ And I thought it paid dividends real fast for us today,” Kipnis said. “We knew we weren’t gonna play that way that we did at the beginning of the season the whole time. Things are about to turn. Numbers always average out a little bit. But we knew that we can’t wait for them to come. You’ve got to kind of play the game hard and the right way.”
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