CLEVELAND -- The Orioles' offense returned Sunday afternoon and brought with it another tally back in the win column.
After their first back-to-back losses since June 28-29 this weekend in Cleveland, the Orioles -- held to one run over a 25-inning stretch -- avoided the sweep with double-digit hits and six solid innings from Kevin Gausman. The end result, a 4-1 victory in front of 22,564 at Progressive Field, extends the first-place O's (70-52) lead to seven games in the American League East -- as Baltimore heads to Chicago for a week-long, two-series stay.
"It's huge any time you can avoid getting swept," Gausman said of an Orioles club that improved to 8-1 in games following a shutout loss. "Especially because we haven't played very great baseball the past two days. Unlucky on Friday; when you get walked off on, that's also tough. And come back the next day and get beat also.
"I think it's huge to get that last game. A travel day. You don't want to get swept and go to another city, you want to leave here feeling like you got something out of this series."
Led by Steve Pearce's pair of extra-base hits -- including his 12th homer -- the Orioles' pitching staff held the Indians to just two hits, with the bullpen allowing one walk over the final three innings.
"They've got all of their pieces back," O's manager Buck Showalter said of an Indians team that has pitched to a 1.06 ERA in their last six games. "I'm glad they are someone else's problem for a while. They are going to be a factor in the American League Central. I really think that."
The Orioles, meanwhile, continue to show why they're the team to beat in the AL East, avoiding their first road three-game series sweep this season.
"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," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "There's a lot of thunder in that lineup."
After 17 consecutive scoreless innings, the O's finally broke through for a pair of runs in the sixth to take their first lead of the series. Things got started with Pearce's double into center field off Indians starter Danny Salazar -- recalled from Triple-A prior to the game -- and he exited after hitting the following batter, Adam Jones, in favor of Scott Atchison.
Atchison recorded the next two outs before shortstop J.J. Hardy punched a ball into right field for the O's second run this series. Chris Davis followed with a double -- his second of two -- to score Jones and give the Orioles a 2-1 edge.
"Definitely a matter of time," Pearce said of the Orioles offense coming back. They have good pitching. It's been a rough couple days, but we grinded through it. Grinded through some tough pitching. That stuff is going to happen, but we didn't let it affect us any."
The run support was plenty for Gausman and the Orioles' fantastic bullpen, which tossed three scoreless innings to close things out. The 23-year-old Gausman -- despite walking four -- held the Tribe to one run on two hits, both of which came in the fourth inning. Carlos Santana hit a one-out double and scored on Jason Kipnis' blooper to center.
"I was talking to [Chris] Tillman the other day and he said the last time he pitched, he felt awful. And he pitched pretty well," Gausman said of turning in a quality outing despite some command issues. "The best guys at this level, they kind of learn that. As they go throughout their career, they figure out how to get through a lineup without their best stuff."
Gausman, who struck out two, was able to cruise the rest of the afternoon before turning the ball over to the 'pen. Darren O'Day and Andrew Miller each tossed a scoreless inning before closer Zach Britton came on to record his 26th save.
"I tell you the whole three days, with the exception of a couple innings yesterday, we pitched real well here," Showalter said. "You get that many left-handed hitters in the lineup, it's a challenge. I'm really proud of the way they've handled themselves."
The O's extended their lead on Pearce's homer off C.C. Lee two outs into the seventh inning, and Jonathan Schoop connected for his 12th homer with a solo shot in the ninth.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.