Sweep just out of Orioles' reach in Cleveland

Sweep just out of Orioles' reach in Cleveland

Sweep just out of Orioles' reach in Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- Tommy Hunter was good, but Justin Masterson was better.

Hunter turned in his second consecutive quality start, the rotation's sixth straight, but Masterson allowed a single run over 7 1/3 innings as the Orioles fell to the Indians, 3-1, Monday at Progressive Field.

The loss snapped Baltimore's winning streak at five games, but the Birds head home having won five on their eight-game road trip.

Hunter struck out four and issued no walks in seven-plus solid innings, with a costly blemish coming in the third. Had Chris Davis handled Casey Kotchman's grounder hit to him a first base, Shin Soo-Choo wouldn't have come to the plate that inning.

The grounder bounced in and out of Davis' glove, but the hard-hit ball was scored a single. Two hitters later, Choo stepped to the plate and sailed a Hunter pitch over the wall in right field.

"Choo got a couple good pitches to hit," Hunter said. "Adam made a good play on one, but he was up in the jet stream [on the home run]."

Hunter's last two starts have been dynamite, but the numbers on the scoreboard kept him from being too excited about his effort Monday night.

"Satisfied to get the loss? That [stinks] to say, because people can say that any which way," Hunter said. "No, I'm not satisfied."

Nonetheless, Hunter took comfort in knowing that he continues to progress.

"I'm not too worried about it," Hunter said. "I can tell you, I am fine. I make one less mistake, and it would be a 1-1 game. It is what it is, and you pick up and go after it tomorrow."

Facing a lineup consisting of seven lefties and two switch hitters, the right-handed Hunter had to be smart in how he pitched the Tribe's hitters. For Hunter, that meant lots of living on the inside corner of the plate.

Knowing that he can do that and still be effective gives Hunter confidence.

"I feel good," Hunter said. "I worked a lot down in Triple-A. We got something we found that clicked. The ball's getting down in the zone, for the most part. I got a couple groundballs tonight. It's going to come."

Masterson also was effective against a lineup loaded with left-handers, and as good as he was at staying out of trouble Monday, a two-run lead did the job.

Baltimore had runners in every inning after the first against Masterson. Other than Omar Quintanilla's RBI double in the fifth, the Orioles never managed a timely hit off Masterson.

"He's always had great movement," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Masterson. "I thought he did some things on the inner half of the plate that kept everyone from getting out over the plate."

In the fifth, Masterson hit Ryan Flaherty with a pitch, and Flaherty came around to score on Quintanilla's double to left-center field.

The Orioles had plenty of scoring chances, but baserunning errors and Masterson's sinker kept Baltimore's offense from gaining much traction.

In the eighth, the Indians trapped Nick Markakis in a rundown between third base and home. Markakis rounded third on an Endy Chavez double, but he put on the brakes just as the throw from left field reached the cutoff man.

"I should have kept going, regardless," Markakis said. "I should have made them make two good throws to get me out, but I froze.

"It's tough, especially when you could have second and third with your [Nos.] 3-4-5 hitters coming up. It's 99.9 percent my fault."

The Indians added a run in the bottom of the eighth, and Showalter downplayed the impact of Markakis' mistake.

"There's about 20 things to make stuff like that not matter," Showalter said. "I know how people dwell on that, but Nicky plays hard. ... That had really nothing to do with winning or losing the ballgame."

Tribe skipper Manny Acta saw the play a little differently.

"We were able to hit the cutoff man, and [Asdrubal] Cabrera was alert," Acta said. "It was a huge play in the game. We basically won the game because of that."

Adam Jones got caught in a rundown in the second inning as well, caught between second and third when Wilson Betemit grounded in front of Jones.

Meanwhile, the Orioles hit into inning-ending double plays in the fourth, sixth and seventh.

In the eighth, Hunter handed off to Troy Patton, who allowed an RBI single to Michael Brantley.

Stephen Ellsesser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.