Steve Karsay was a little nervous Saturday as he took a different route to the mound than he had all season.
But once he got there, Karsay knew he was back where he belonged.
Making his first start in more than a year, Karsay pitched five solid innings for his first win as a starter in more than two years Saturday as the Cleveland Indians won their fifth straight, 7-1 over the Baltimore Orioles.
"I always knew I could still start," said Karsay, who has won nine straight decisions. "I just wanted another chance."
Karsay, arguably the Indians' best pitcher this season, made his first start since Aug. 11 of last year against Texas. The right-hander, used primarily in long relief, allowed three hits in five innings.
"It's just like riding a bike after you've made enough starts," said Karsay, who admitted to having trouble sleeping the past few nights. "To go out there and have a quality start is satisfying and we'll just take it from there."
With starters Dwight Gooden and Jaret Wright on the disabled list, Indians manager Mike Hargrove was hoping to get at least five innings from Karsay, who was on a 75-pitch count but was pulled after just 57.
Still he was out there long enough to get his first win as a starter since July 17, 1997, for Oakland.
"I pleaded with him to give me another inning," Karsay said.
Hargrove, who has had to juggle his lineup and rotation all season because of injuries and suspenions, did promise Karsay another start.
"If he keeps doing that," Hargrove said. "He'll keep starting."
Tom Martin, making his debut with the Indians after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery, pitched three innings of one-hit relief. And David Riske made his major league debut in the ninth, striking out Albert Belle with a nasty curveball to complete the combined four-hitter.
"I was a little shaky when I went out there, my knees were kind of rattling," said Riske, called up on Aug. 9 when Karsay was put in the rotation. "I'm still kind of in shock a little bit."
The Indians got a scare in the sixth inning when center fielder Kenny Lofton, activated from the 15-day disabled list following Friday night's game, fouled a pitch off his right foot and had to leave the game.
At first, Lofton appeared to be seriously hurt, but X-rays were negative and he's day-to-day with a bruise.
Thome connected off Jason Johnson (3-7) as Cleveland improved to 27 games over .500 (71-44) for the first time in 1999.
Jeff Conine homered for the Orioles, who have dropped all five games this year to the Indians and are 9-23 at Jacobs Field since 1994.
Conine and many of the Orioles were impressed with Karsay, who mixed a 95 mph fastball with a curveball and a sinker he developed this winter pitching in Puerto Rico.
"The key to his game is the curveball," Conine said. "When he gets that over you can't sit on the fastball. That curve is not the pitch you want to see."
Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco did not pitch, leaving him tied with Dennis Eckersley for the most appearance in major league history. Orosco can break the record on Sunday night's nationally televised game.
Johnson gave up a one-out single to Vizquel in the first and then walked the bases full for Thome, who drove the first pitch over the wall in left for his 22nd homer and second slam this season.
Johnson was upset with Orioles manager Ray Miller for pulling him after getting just six outs.
"I'm not happy," he said. "I was ready to go at least four more."
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