CLEVELAND — With some help from their lucky chicken, the Cleveland Indians passed some other birds in the wild-card race.
Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn drove in two runs apiece as Cleveland beat Baltimore 6-4 and jumped the Orioles on Wednesday night in the scramble to win one of the AL’s two wild-card spots.
The live chicken, presented as a gift to reliever Cody Allen, was on the field for batting practice. The bird, supplied by clubhouse workers from an area farm, was given to Allen, who was nicknamed “Chicken Al” by pitcher Frank Herrmann in spring training. The chicken has been named “Cody.”
While manager Terry Francona said the chicken will be returned safely to the farm, the bird may have to make a return engagement as the Indians continue their playoff push.
“If we get on roll, that’s going to be our mascot,” Raburn said. “Whoever’s the owner of it, we’re going to have to keep that sucker if we keep winning. We’re going to have to get him his own locker.”
The chicken, carried on the field by staff ace Justin Masterson, spent most of batting practice standing with Cleveland’s pitchers in front of the warning track in center field. Allen, as his teammates made clucking noises in his direction following the game, was initially reluctant to discuss his gift but finally relented.
“It was funny,” he said. “It was a very calm chicken. It handled itself well. We scored six runs so maybe the chicken will be here tomorrow.”
Allen said two of his teammates came up with the idea. Although pitcher Rich Hill was rumored to be involved, no names were divulged.
“It’s kind of an anonymous duo,” Allen said.
Francona knew about the joke ahead of time but was still surprised to see a chicken on a baseball field.
“I’m pretty OK as long as we win, but I don’t know about farm animals,” he said.
The Indians came off a tough road trip to Atlanta and Detroit, in which they went 1-5 and lost ground in the wild card race before playing Baltimore. Francona is happy that his team is remaining loose.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “We’re into September. … I actually love it. Guys are trying to have fun. That’s the best way to be a good team.”
The Indians moved a half-game in front of Baltimore in the chase for a playoff spot. Cleveland began the night 3½ games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild card.
Relievers Bryan Shaw (3-3), Allen, Joe Smith and Chris Perez, who recorded his 22nd save, combined to allow one hit in 4⅓ innings.
“The chicken got us a win. … I’m sorry. … Cody got us a win, Chicken Al pitched well,” Smith said.
Gomes broke a 4-all tie with an RBI single in the fifth when the Indians scored twice to go ahead for good. A wild pitch by Kevin Gausman (2-4) with the bases loaded scored the second run.
Cleveland scored four times in the first, but starter Zach McAllister couldn’t hold the lead.
Adam Jones hit a solo homer in the fourth. Manny Machado’s three-run homer tied it in the fifth.
Raburn’s two-run double, along with RBI singles by Gomes and Mike Aviles, got the Indians off to a quick start.
McAllister allowed four runs in 4⅓ innings. Orioles starter Zach Britton lasted 3⅓ innings in his first start since July 9. The left-hander, called up from Triple-A Norfolk on Monday, allowed four runs and six hits.
The Orioles finished 3-6 on their nine-game trip against playoff contenders. They also lost two of three in Boston and New York.
“I choose to trust these guys and continue to believe that good things are ahead,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Jones was hit on the left arm by a pitch in the second. He was in obvious pain as he headed to first, where he was visited by
Showalter and a team trainer. The two spoke with Jones, who remained in the game.
The three-game series between teams chasing a playoff spot drew a total of 36,504 fans. Tuesday night’s turnout of 9,962 was the lowest September/October crowd in the history of Progressive Field, which opened in 1994.