CLEVELAND -- The Baltimore Orioles-Cleveland Indians series has been bitterly fought this season, with six games decided in the winning team's final at-bat and three going to extra innings.
But last night, the Orioles dispatched the Indians early.
Buoyed by a three-run fifth inning, Dave Johnson brought the Orioles to within one game of fourth place in the American League East, ending a two-game losing streak, 5-3.
It was the Orioles' seventh victory in the past nine games and Johnson's first on the road since July 28.
And it came against a team that had won seven of its previous nine, was 15-10 this month and was averaging 6.4 runs in the past 14.
Gregg Olson came on in the ninth for his 35th save, breaking the club record he had shared with Don Aase (1986). He has earned a save in his past four appearances.
It was not picture perfect. Olson struck out Mitch Webster, but then allowed three straight hits, including a run-scoring single by probable Rookie of the Year Sandy Alomar, before escaping the mess.
"When has it been easy for him?" manager Frank Robinson said of Olson. "I'm sure he had an easy one in there somewhere, but I can't remember it. I guess he feels better if the game gets a little tougher."
Olson said: "They gave me a three-run lead, and I used it. I'm kind of disappointed in the way I've performed. I had a long struggle in the middle, and now I'm going through another one. I guess I put too high expectations on myself."
Robinson classified Olson's year as "excellent. After last year, it was a matter of time before he got the record. We've won 72; he's saved 35 and won five. I'd say that's excellent."
Johnson was his usual resilient and resourceful self, as he ran his record to 9-0 after Orioles losses by turning in a 110-pitch effort that increased his club-leading victory total to 13.
The only real blemish of the night came when Cleveland's Alex Cole stole second base on a pitchout in the third inning, making him the first to steal successfully against Johnson in the majors (1-for-10).
"I'm glad the stolen base thing is over," said Johnson, who is 8-1 against the AL East. "I found myself thinking way too much about it, and it's no big thing."
Johnson said he got a little lackadaisical on the play after Mickey Tettleton called for the pitchout. "I wasn't watching him. In fact, I was hoping he'd go because I thought he'd be out," he said.
Only once did Johnson trail in the game -- 1-0 after his errant pickoff throw in the first sent Cole to third and Carlos Baerga singled him home. The other Indians run was a home run by Joel Skinner after the Orioles had taken a 4-1 lead. It was the 39th of 81 runs this season that have resulted from the major-league-leading 29 homers Johnson has allowed.
Otherwise, he was masterful at pitching out of trouble, a trademark.
"He's one of the guys you see warming up on the sandlot and you wouldn't give a dollar for him," said Robinson. "He's just not very impressive, even when he's out there, but he has a knack to win."
Mike Devereaux homered for the third time in six games, off losing pitcher John Farrell, before the Orioles wrapped it up with a three-run rally that included RBI singles by Leo Gomez, Bill Ripken and Steve Finley.
The RBI on a run-and-hit play was Gomez's first in the majors.
Johnson downplayed his successes as the staff stopper, saying: "It is one of those things that has to do with luck. I could have just as well lost some games in there. I've just been fortunate to pitch well those times. I don't go out there thinking I've got to do well because we're losing. I want to do well every day."
A loss would have automatically given the Indians the season series. They lead, 6-4, with three games left this weekend.