Two days into the final month of the baseball season the bats are back — and so are the smiles — in the Orioles clubhouse.

Opening their three-game series in Cleveland on Monday Indians right-hander Justin Masterson was pulled in the second inning with rib-cage soreness forcing Cleveland to fill eight innings minus their ace.

The Orioles jumped on the Indians bullpen early and right-hander Bud Norris recorded the win as he led the Orioles to a 7-2 victory over Cleveland in front of an announced 15020 at Progressive Field.

After opening their road trip losing four of five and back-to-back series in Boston and New York the Orioles are 2 1/2 games out of the second American League wild-card spot after Monday’s win.

The Yankees’ 9-1 win over Chicago kept the Orioles a 1/2 game up over New York in the wild-card race but the Orioles are now 1 1/2 games ahead of the reeling Indians (72-65) losers of five of their last six.
Norris won his career-high 10th game of the season holding the Indians to just one run on four hits and tying a season-high with eight strikeouts.

“We want to be more than relevant” Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “People are saying well you’re playing [in meaningful games]. It’s more than that it’s about doing the things it takes to stay in it. It usually starts and ends with the starting pitching setting the tone and Bud was the difference-maker. Especially after we scored some runs he went right back out there and put some zeros up.”

The Orioles bats were alive on Monday and after scoring just 13 runs in the first five games of their road trip they’ve scored 14 in the last two contests.

Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth drove in three runs including a two-run homer in the fourth inning and catcher Matt Wieters capped a four-hit day tying his career-high for hits with a two-run homer of his own in the ninth to punctuate the win.

“We’re going to need to do a lot more of [Monday] and [Sunday] over the last month of the season” McLouth said. “Hopefully as the calendar flips to September so does the offense. The first two games have been pretty good.”

After Masterson left the game the Orioles scored three runs in the second inning – and could have done more damage had Nick Markakis not been called out on a controversial appeal at second base.