Just two weeks ago the Cleveland Indians appeared headed for another collapse after a strong start to the season.
They had fallen to 30-33 following a loss to the Rangers on June 10, extending their season-high losing streak to eight games as Scott Kazmir was rocked for four runs in six innings pitched.
But the Windians have turned it around since then, winning 10 of their last 14 games after a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. They are 40-37 and have closed the gap on the Detroit Tigers to 2½ games in the AL Central race.
It’s fitting that Kazmir was on the mound for tonight’s win, throwing his best start of the season as he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
He finished with seven strong innings of one-hit, one-run ball for his first career start with at least seven innings pitched and one hit or fewer allowed.
Kazmir did a great job finishing off the Orioles batters, retiring all 10 that went to a two-strike count. Prior to this start, he had allowed a .250 batting average with two strikes, which was the third-highest mark in the majors.
He kept the ball away from the Orioles potent lineup, throwing a season-high 59 percent of his pitches on the outer third of the strike zone or just off the outside corner. Those 46 pitches netted him 14 outs with zero baserunners allowed.
Most Doubles in First 79 Team Games
The player who broke up Kazmir’s no-no was Manny Machado, with his MLB-best 36th double of the season.
The double came off a fastball from the southpaw on the inner third of the plate. Machado was just 2-for-17 (.118) in at-bats ending in an inside fastball from lefties prior to that hit.
Machado’s 36 doubles are already the most for an Orioles player before the All-Star break and the most by any AL player in the first half of the season since Edgar Martinez had 42 in 1996.
If Machado plays in every game the rest of the season he would finish with 73 doubles, which would shatter the major-league record of 67 doubles set by Earl Webb in the 1931 season.
Machado is chasing a record that has appeared to be unbreakable in recent years. The last players to even reach 60 doubles in a season were Joe Medwick and Charlie Gehringer in 1936.