Slumping Orioles salvage four-game split with Indians

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles haven't had many wins to celebrate lately, so they took particular delight in one that required solid pitching from a first-time starter and a rookie closer.

Brian Bass kept the game close in his starting debut and Jim Miller earned his first big league save, helping the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 6-3 Thursday night.

Baltimore had won only three of its previous 20 games, by scores of 11-6, 11-3 and 14-3. This one, however, hinged upon pitching, and the Orioles got what they needed.

"I think it's more the style we need to play in order for us to compete and to win and to be successful," manager Dave Trembley said. "It's probably as good a game as we've played in a while."

Bass allowed three runs, one earned, and four hits in 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander was obtained from Minnesota on Sept. 5.

Lance Cormier (3-3) followed with three innings of one-hit ball, Jamie Walker got two outs in the eighth and Miller finished after the first batters in the ninth reached base.

"The first time, yeah, it's definitely a little bit more intense," Miller said. "These guys, top to bottom in that lineup, if you make a mistake to one of them with two runners on, bam, it's a tie ballgame."

The Orioles earned a split of the four-game series, which began with Baltimore mired in an eight-game losing streak. The pitching was important, but the batters contributed, too.

Nick Markakis broke out of a slump with two hits; Aubrey Huff hit a key double and scored twice to reach a career high in runs with 94; and Melvin Mora, sidelined since Aug. 29 with a strained left hamstring, returned to hit a two-run double and lift his RBI total to 99.

Cleveland's Travis Hafner, batting cleanup in his second game since spending more than three months on disabled list, went 1-for-4. Grady Sizemore went 0-for-4 with a walk and is hitless in his last 23 at-bats.

Zach Jackson (0-3) gave up five runs, four earned, and eight hits in six innings. Jackson, obtained in the July 7 trade that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee, has lost three straight starts.

"He battled. He does that. He battles," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I didn't think we played particularly well overall as a ballclub -- offensively, defensively. I don't think we pitched at the top of our game either. But Zach deserved a better fate. A few pitches out and over, but he still gave us a chance to win."

The game turned in the fifth inning. After Cleveland scored two unearned runs on a throwing error by Cormier, Baltimore answered in the bottom half with two runs to take a 5-3 lead.

Markakis, who earlier snapped an 0-for-13 skid, singled and took third on a double by Huff. Ramon Hernandez drove in a run with a groundout and Asdrubal Cabrera misplayed a two-out grounder to short, allowing Huff to score.

"You got to limit the damage," Jackson said. "The most disappointing thing about tonight was that when the guys battled back and everything, not going out there and putting up a zero."

Huff walked in the seventh and came home on a fly ball by Kevin Millar to make it 6-3.

"It's always good to get a win," Cormier said. "It was Bass' first game starting and I thought he did a good job. And we had some timely hitting when we needed it."

An RBI single by Andy Marte put Cleveland up 1-0 in the second.

The Orioles took a 3-1 lead in the third. After Brandon Fahey tripled and scored on an opposite-field double to right by Lou Montanez, Markakis singled off the glove of first baseman Michael Aubrey and Mora doubled in two runs.

Game notes
Jeremy Guthrie has been scratched from his scheduled start Saturday against Minnesota and will be replaced by Garrett Olson, Trembley said after the game. "His arm is fine. It's just tired," Trembley said of Guthrie. ... Huff has 47 doubles, tying his career high set in 2003 with Tampa Bay. ... Cleveland will skip RHP Anthony Reyes' scheduled Monday start against Minnesota because of right elbow soreness. LHP Scott Lewis will pitch instead. ... The Orioles equaled their 2007 total of home wins (35) and earned a split of the season series with Cleveland (4-4).