CLEVELAND — They are unofficially the never-quite-enough Indians.
They hit but don't pitch well enough to win. They pitch well and don't hit enough to win. They do both and their defense lets them down.
One thing or the other.
With a chance to sweep AL East-leading Baltimore, the Indians squandered a solid start by Danny Salazar and were held to two hits by rookie Kevin Gausman and three relievers Sunday in a 4-1 loss to the Orioles.
It's been that way all season for the Indians, who are hanging around the playoff chase despite inconsistencies in several areas.
Still, manager Terry Francona felt taking two of three from the free-swinging Orioles was a positive.
"You hope they get out of town and beat up on somebody else because they were pretty quiet for two games and a half of another," he said. "There's a lot of thunder in that lineup."
Salazar, recalled from Triple-A Columbus before the game, kept the Orioles off the scoreboard for five innings and led 1-0 before getting into trouble in the sixth.
The right-hander gave up a leadoff double to Steve Pearce and hit Adam Jones to start the inning. Francona wanted to keep the game close and brought in reliever Scott Atchison, who got two quick outs before giving up a game-tying single to J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis' run-scoring double.
That's all the Orioles needed as Gausman retired the side in order and Baltimore's bullpen allowed just one baserunner — on a ninth-inning walk — over the final three innings.
Salazar allowed two runs in five innings, a performance Francona felt should benefit the 24-year-old.
"I think Danny is in a good position moving forward," he said. "I think learning the league is every bit as important as the other things. He threw some real good change-ups today, even to the right-handers."
Although it was his second straight loss, Salazar extended a torrid run of starting pitching for the Indians, who got a typically strong outing from Corey Kluber in the opener before Carlos Carrasco blanked the Orioles on three hits over seven innings.
Over the past seven games, Cleveland's starters have posted a 1.02 ERA — five earned runs in 44 innings with 46 strikeouts.
Jason Kipnis drove in Cleveland's only run with an RBI bloop single in the fourth.
After being held to one run in the first two games, the Orioles were relieved to leave town with a win.
The Indians are 17-13 against the AL East, the seventh time in 11 years the club has had a winning record against that division. Cleveland has three games left with Tampa Bay.
Indians: 1B Nick Swisher is already in California and will see Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers' team physician, on Tuesday for a second opinion on his injured right knee. It's possible Swisher needs season-ending surgery. The injury may partly explain his poor second season in Cleveland.