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CLE@BAL: Choo collects four hits vs. Orioles

BALTIMORE -- At first, it could have been mistaken for a band of hecklers. It was faint at first, but the cries inside Camden Yard grew louder throughout the course of Saturday's game and typically came after Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo reached base.

Choo did so five times in Cleveland's 11-5 romp over the Orioles, so it became clearer that these were some of his fans joining together in a song of support. It is a familiar chorus, but one that typically happens when Choo is playing in front of his home audience.

Choooooooo!

"The same as in Cleveland, right?" Choo said with a smile. "We travel to a lot of different cities and a lot of Korean fans come and cheer. I always see Cleveland fans and Korean fans out in right field and by home plate. I see it. I think it gives me a lot of energy."

It was Choo who provided the energy for the Indians (39-38) in a steamy Saturday afternoon tilt against the Orioles (42-35). Then again, it was more of the same for the right fielder, given his offensive renaissance over the past two months. Against Baltimore, Choo tormented the opposition with four hits, four runs and three RBIs.

Choo was hardly alone in offering heroics for the Tribe. Third baseman Jose Lopez (five) and catcher Lou Marson (four) each set career highs in hits, and Marson fell a home run shy of a cycle. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera contributed three hits and drove in a pair of runs, and designated hitter Shelley Duncan added a solo homer.

All in all, the Indians churned out 19 hits and were so overwhelming on offense that it did not matter that they stranded 16 baserunners. The catalyst to the collection of contributions, however, was Choo.

"Choo was the guy today," Indians manager Manny Acta said.

The right fielder began his assault on the Orioles' pitching staff in the first inning, when he drilled the first pitch he saw from lefty Dana Eveland into center field for a single. Cabrera followed with a base hit and Choo later crossed home plate on the first of Lopez's five singles.

In the second inning, Choo sliced a 2-1 fastball from Eveland to left field, where the ball sailed over the wall for his eighth homer of the year, pushing the Indians to a 2-0 lead. Choo walked and scored in the fourth inning, chipped in an RBI single and scored in the fifth, and drove in another run with a base hit in the sixth.

Choo's four hits and four runs matched his career bests.

Simply put, Choo is locked in right now.

"I think the biggest thing is I feel comfortable," Choo said. "I'm comfortable in the batter's box and I've had confidence come back."

Much has been made of the fact that Choo has excelled since assuming leadoff duties for the Indians on May 14, but his statistical rise actually began after May 3. On that date, he was hitting .209 with no home runs, five doubles and nine RBIs in 17 games. In the 54 games since, Choo has hit .318 with eight homers, 19 doubles and 21 RBIs.

In his past 12 games, Choo has turned things up a notch, hitting at a .444 (20-for-45) clip with three homers, six doubles and eight RBIs for the Indians.

This is the version of Choo that Cleveland badly needs the rest of the way this season.

"We're not going anywhere unless he's the player we know [he can be]," Acta said. "We need him bad. He's the key to our lineup and I'm glad he's back to it. It's that simple. We just don't have a powerhouse here not to have guys like Choo on top of their game."

The bulk of the offense came at the expense of Eveland (five runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings) and reliever Tommy Hunter (five runs in 1 2/3 innings), though Marson pushed a pitch from Matt Lindstrom into right field in the ninth for good measure. Because the Indians catcher was a home run short of the cycle, that final RBI single resulted in some wisecracks in the visitors' dugout.

"That was kind of wimpy," Acta said with a smirk. "I mean, come on. We gave him a little bit of a hard time. You've got to go for the cycle."

The beneficiary of the wealth of support was right-hander Josh Tomlin (4-5), who picked up a win despite giving up five runs on seven hits over six innings. The biggest blow came in the fourth, when Chris Davis crushed a 2-1 changeup over right field and out of the ballpark for a three-run home run.

Tomlin was understandably grateful for his offense on this day.

"That was the story of the game," Tomlin said. "That's the reason we won the ballgame. Those guys came out with a plan, they executed it and they just kept it rolling."

Choo led the way from the leadoff spot.

The rest of the lineup followed.

"That's beautiful," Lopez said. "We haven't done that for a while now."

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