|10:40 AM PT11:40 AM MT12:40 PM CT1:40 PM ET13:40 ET17:40 GMT1:40 10:40 AM MST12:40 PM EST1:10 PM VEN21:40 UAE11:40 AM CT, September 24, 2023
Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio Attendance: 20,287
Gibson, Rutschman move Orioles closer to AL East title with 5-1 win over Guardians
By STEVE HERRICK
CLEVELAND (AP) Kyle Gibson pitched seven strong innings, Adley Rutschman reached base four times and the Baltimore Orioles moved closer to clinching the AL East title, defeating the Cleveland Guardians 5-1 on Sunday.
Baltimore has a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Tampa Bay in the division and reduced its magic number to three. Baltimore has six games remaining and holds the tiebreaker over the Rays.
Gibson (15-9) allowed one run and five hits while striking out four. The right-hander was pulled after a leadoff double in the eighth.
“Any time you inch closer you’re getting excited,” he said. “This is a team that’s really looking forward to it and if we take care of our business it will be a whole lot of fun here.”
The Orioles completed a stretch of playing a game in 17 straight days and went 4-3 on a trip to Houston and Cleveland.
“Just excited about how our club is playing,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re fun to watch. Everyone in the clubhouse is extremely loose."
Rutschman doubled twice, drove in a run and drew two walks for Baltimore. He lined out to left field in the eighth.
The Guardians' Triston McKenzie, activated from the 60-day injured list before the game, issued a career-high six walks in 1 2/3 innings.
The right-hander, making his third start of the season because of elbow and shoulder injuries, threw 19 strikes in his 52 pitches and was pulled with the bases loaded in the second. He allowed three runs and didn’t strike out a batter.
McKenzie didn't attribute the poor outing to his injuries.
“I felt good,” he said. “I still feel good now in terms of a health standpoint. I’m just really unhappy with how the outing itself went. I don’t think I commanded the zone with my off-speed as well as I should have, and the fastball just obviously wasn’t in the zone as much as I would like.”
McKenzie was 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA last season, but strained his shoulder in his last start of spring training and was sidelined until June 4. McKenzie returned to the injured list after two starts because of an elbow sprain.
“It was a challenge from the very beginning, whether it’s release point, his head getting a little bit off kilter,” manager Terry Francona said. “He just wasn’t commanding anything and paid for it.”
McKenzie (0-2) was examined by several doctors following the elbow injury and the decision was made that he undergo a process of rest and rehab instead of considering surgery.
Jordan Westburg started Baltimore’s scoring with an RBI double in the second. Jorge Mateo followed with a run-scoring groundout and Anthony Santander drew a bases-loaded walk, ending McKenzie’s outing.
McKenzie walked one in a scoreless first, but walked five of the eight batters he faced in the second, including the last three.
Rutschman had an RBI double in the fourth and Cedric Mullins added a run-scoring single in the fifth.
José Ramírez had three hits for the Guardians. Cleveland won the first two games of the series in its last at-bat, including a 9-8 walk-off victory Friday. John Means took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday in Baltimore’s 2-1 win.
BIT OF A BREATHER
The Orioles have wrapped up their first postseason appearance since 2016 and will avoid a one-game playoff for the East title since they own the tiebreaker. Hyde was the Chicago Cubs bench coach in 2018 when they finished tied with Milwaukee in the NL Central.
“I’ve been in one 163 (game of the regular season) and it’s a nervous wreck,” he said. “It’s the Super Bowl. Because we’ve won tiebreakers, I like the rule this year.”
The Cubs lost to the Brewers and then dropped the wild-card game to Colorado.
The Guardians host Cincinnati on Tuesday and Wednesday in their last two games of the home season. It also will be Francona’s last series as Cleveland’s manager at Progressive Field.
Orioles: INF Ryan Mountcastle (left AC joint inflammation) worked out at first base before the game.
Guardians: Rookie C Bo Naylor (bruised right thumb) was out of the lineup for the second straight game. He was injured blocking a pitch in the dirt Friday. … SS Gabriel Arias (right wrist) was out after being hit by a pitch Saturday.
Orioles: Baltimore ends the regular season with a six-game homestand against Washington and Boston. RHP Kyle Bradish (11-7, 3.01 ERA) will start Tuesday night versus the Nationals.
Guardians: RHP Lucas Giolito (8-14, 4.60 ERA) will start Tuesday night against Cincinnati.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb
Updated September 24, 2023