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BAL@KC: Chen holds Royals to one run over 5 1/3

After three weeks of slowly sinking lower into the American League Central cellar and little going their way, the Indians will enter Thursday's duel with the Orioles riding a series sweep of the division-leading Tigers.

Of the three games, two wound up turning into extra-inning affairs, with Wednesday's game left undecided until a bases-loaded balk gave Cleveland the win in the 13th inning. With the sweep, the Tribe improved to 4-1 against the Tigers this season and cut its division deficit to 7 1/2 games.

Last season, Cleveland went 4-15 against the Tigers, including a 1-9 record against them at Progressive Field.

"Obviously a team like that who's going to be atop the division race all year, to have good games against them is very, very important when September rolls around and you're fighting for every game," relief pitcher Cody Allen said. "To play well against them is always big, so hopefully this can catapult us going forward."

Baltimore, meanwhile, has been trending in the opposite direction.

Though they're in the hunt in the AL East, the O's have lost seven of their last 10 contests, including five instances of scoring two runs or fewer during that span, and they are collectively batting .238 with a .284 OBP at Camden Yards.

With probable starter Josh Tomlin called upon to pitch three innings during Wednesday's marathon game, the Indians moved up Justin Masterson one day to make this start.

Masterson labored through 4 1/3 innings against the A's on Sunday, allowing seven runs on seven hits with five walks and one strikeout in 4 1/3 innings.

For Baltimore, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 3.69 ERA) has been perhaps the team's most consistent starter in 2014. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in his last six starts, striking out 25 while walking 10 during that span.

In his last time out, Chen pitched just well enough to earn the win in Kansas City, as he held the Royals to one run on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. He owns a 3.12 ERA in Camden Yards this season, and a 2.87 ERA in night games.

Chen's last start against the Indians came on June 28, 2012, during which he allowed them to plate six runs, including two home runs, over 6 1/3 innings, while striking out three and walking three.

Indians: Brantley extends streak
Outfielder Michael Brantley continued to stay locked in at the plate on Wednesday, rapping out four hits against the Tigers. In doing so, Brantley has hit safely in his last 18 games at Progressive Field, which ties the stadium record for an Indians batter. The mark remains the longest active home hitting streak in baseball.

Brantley has been stalwart for Cleveland this May, putting up a .365/.427/.649 slash line while hitting five home runs. He also leads the team in stolen bases with six.

"I think as good hitters get to know themselves throughout the league, sometimes that evolves into more production. I think that's what you're seeing," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Orioles: Cruz crushes, but not at home
Outfielder Nelson Cruz has produced some impressive hitting numbers this season. His 14 home runs sit tied for second most in the Majors, while his 41 RBIs rank second in the AL.

But Cruz's production at Camden Yards -- much like the rest of the team -- is far less daunting. At home this season, the right-handed slugger has batted .217 while striking out in more than 25 percent of his at-bats. Against right-handed pitchers in Baltimore, his batting average drops to .213 and he only walks in 6.1 percent of his plate appearances.

Worth noting
• Tribe designated hitter Jason Giambi recorded his first hit of the season on Wednesday on a single to center field. It was his first game back in the lineup since injuring his calf against the White Sox on May 3 and just his fifth with the Indians this season.

• Much like the Indians, the Orioles have dealt with starting pitching issues. As a rotation, the O's have gone 15-17 this season with a lackluster 4.22 ERA, while issuing just 201 strikeouts -- the fourth-lowest mark in baseball.

• With their 13th-inning victory on Wednesday, the Indians improved to 2-1 in extra-innings games this season, while the Orioles are 4-0 in those situations.

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