Orioles-Indians Preview


Zach Britton's much-anticipated season debut didn't go well earlier this week.

While Josh Tomlin wasn't sharp either, getting back home could help him regroup.

Britton takes the mound opposite Tomlin on Sunday when the Baltimore Orioles try for a season best-tying fifth consecutive victory as their series continues with the Cleveland Indians.

Still feeling the effects of a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two weeks last August, Britton (0-0, 9.00 ERA), who led the Orioles with 11 wins in his 2011 rookie campaign, was placed on the disabled list in late March.

After building up his arm strength in the minors, Britton was called up Tuesday to start against Minnesota. The 24-year-old left-hander, though, allowed four runs in four innings and issued a career-high six walks in a 6-4 road loss.

"Six walks is absolutely unacceptable," Britton said. "There's no way that should happen. It was really frustrating. I expect to go deep in games."

Despite the poor outing, Britton's job appears safe at the moment.

"He's capable of doing this," manager Buck Showalter told MLB's official website. "It's one start. He did a lot to get to this point, and I'm proud of him to earn the right. But now he's got to earn the right to stay here."

Tomlin (5-6, 5.51) was also knocked around Tuesday, yielding four runs - three in the first inning - and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat at Tampa Bay.

"It was tough putting guys in a hole like that," he said. "I've got to do a better job of limiting the damage, especially the first inning."

While Tomlin has compiled a 10.13 ERA over his last four road starts, he's gone 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in his last two at home. In his most recent outing at Progressive Field, the right-hander allowed two hits over seven innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Rays on July 5.

"Back in the friendly confines of Progressive Field, you saw the real Josh Tomlin, and what he's capable of here," setup man Vinnie Pestano said after that game.

The Orioles (50-44) have won four straight behind strong pitching efforts, recording four consecutive quality starts for the first time since May 15-18. Chris Tillman was the latest to shine, allowing one run in 6 2-3 innings during Saturday's 3-1 victory.

After hitting his 610th homer to move into seventh place on the all-time list during Friday's 10-2 win, Jim Thome came up huge again Saturday with No. 611 - a go-ahead, two-run shot in the seventh inning.

Acquired from Philadelphia on July 1, Thome, who spent his first 12 seasons and the final two months of last year in an Indians uniform, enjoys coming back to Cleveland.

"There's a lot memories," he said. "I've had great memories on that side and then coming in here as an opponent against them. Any time you come home, they say, it's very special. It's even more special to get the W's. That's, I think, the main thing."

Cleveland (47-47), meanwhile, has managed just three runs in dropping three in a row. The Indians are batting .191 during their skid - including a 1-for-14 effort with runners in scoring position. They went 0 for 5 in such situations Saturday.

Tomlin has won each of his last three starts in this series despite allowing five runs in each of his last two - including an 11-5 victory at Baltimore on June 30.

In his lone appearance against the Indians, Britton was tagged for five runs over six innings during an 8-2 loss at Cleveland on April 15, 2011.