Ty Wigginton drives in the Orioles' only run in their 4-1… (Associated Press photo…)
There was bound to be a day under manager Buck Showalter when the Orioles showed little spark and were shut down by a pitcher whom they figured to do more against.
Still, Thursday night screamed of a missed opportunity to win five straight games for the first time all season, sweep their first three-game series in Cleveland since 1987 and take another step toward securing their first winning road trip in 2010.
Veteran starter Kevin Millwood mostly did his part, allowing three runs over seven innings to continue the fine run by a resurgent rotation. However, the Orioles were shut down by unheralded youngster Jeanmar Gomez and two Indians relievers in a 4-1 loss before an announced 14,533 at Progressive Field.
"The guy threw a good game," center fielder Adam Jones said. "Oh, well. It happens. You move on."
It was just the Orioles' second loss in 10 games under Showalter, and the first in which they never led. With a victory, Showalter would have tied Davey Johnson (1996) for the best 10-game start as manager for the Orioles, and his team would have carried even more momentum into a three-game series that starts Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, the leaders in the American League wild-card race.
Instead, Gomez, a 22-year-old Venezuelan making just his fourth big league start, allowed one run and six hits in six-plus innings in improving to 3-0 this season. Left-handed specialist Rafael Perez retired all six batters he faced, and closer Chris Perez picked up his 14th save by pitching a perfect ninth inning.
After pounding out 13 hits in each of the first two games of the series, the Orioles (40-75) had only two men in scoring position Thursday and scored their only run on Ty Wigginton's two-out single in the sixth inning.
"Don't take it wrong, we wanted to win this game," Showalter said. "We wanted to win all three, and we had an opportunity. We got a well-pitched game. I'm disappointed about that. We need to take better advantage of our at-bats. But obviously, we'll go against a good baseball team [in the Rays] that's right in the thick of it. It will be a pretty good barometer for us."
As a member of Triple-A Columbus on June 15, Gomez threw seven shutout innings against Norfolk, the Orioles' top affiliate. However, Showalter was one of the few people in the visiting dugout familiar with the right-hander aside from what the players watched on video before the game.
Showalter, who was a special assistant for the Indians after he was fired by the Texas Rangers, scouted Gomez at Single-A Lake County in 2007 and turned in some positive reports on the pitcher.
"I got that one right," Showalter said. "I wish he would have waited a little bit. Anytime you see a young pitchers, you can only look at so much tape to prepare. He had good late life on his fastball, and he got a lot of outs on the ground. He pounded the strike zone, too. I was impressed by him. You can see why they're so high on him."
Gomez was just 8-8 with a 5.20 ERA in 20 starts for Columbus, and he had allowed 129 hits and 42 walks in 116 innings when he was summoned to the big leagues. He gave up three total earned runs over 10 1/3 innings in beating the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins in his first two starts, and the Orioles couldn't do much with him either.
After Nick Markakis' one-out single in the first inning, Gomez retired 13 straight batters. He didn't allow another base runner until Felix Pie's single with two outs in the fifth inning. Matt Wieters followed with a single up the middle on a 3-0 pitch, but Gomez retired Cesar Izturis on a sinking liner that Michael Brantley caught in shallow center field.
"We just didn't get it going," said Jones, who went 1-for-4, reaching on a bunt single in the seventh. "He had a good sinker. That's all he threw. He really didn't leave too much up. I wish we got the opportunity to see him again, but we don't. I feel if we got to see him again, we'd probably get him out of the game pretty early. He threw a good game, so you tip your cap to him."
Gomez's counterpart, Millwood, appeared headed for an early exit as he allowed three hits and a run in a 25-pitch first inning. Trevor Crowe drove in the run by just beating shortstop Izturis' throw for an infield single, prompting Showalter to engage in a brief argument with first base umpire Brian O'Nora.
It was the 12th time in his past 14 starts that Millwood has allowed a least one run in the first inning.
He didn't have much easier of a time in the second as the Indians got a leadoff single by Jason Donald, a double by Andy Marte and an RBI groundout from Lou Marson. But after hitting Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch to put runners on the corners with two outs, Millwood retired the dangerous Shin-Soo Choo.
The only other run he gave up was on Crowe's RBI double in the fifth.
"He pitched well enough for us to win," Showalter said. "That goes without saying. He gave us seven innings tonight, and that's the Kevin I remember [from Texas]. He kept us in the ballgame and didn't give in."
It was the Orioles' ninth quality start over the past 10 games. Millwood, who allowed nine hits, walked a batter and hit two, went seven innings for the first time in 14 starts. But it wasn't enough to prevent his AL-leading 12th loss.
"All in all, I feel OK about [the outing]," Millwood said. "I guess I just got to pick a better night to pitch, when we score more runs."
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