During this first-place run, Orioles manager Buck Showalter is continually asked about the resiliency of his club, primarily the way it has been able to bounce back after absorbing injuries to key players. And he usually delivers the same answer: The Orioles don't wallow in self-pity. Instead, someone else steps up.
On Saturday night, in a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, the Orioles didn't pitch well and squandered several scoring opportunities, but they ultimately squeaked out another win, thanks to the legs of a veteran and the bat of a newcomer. And during the game, they made two trades to bolster their roster for the stretch run.
“It's something we've been talking about for a few days,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We were able to bring it together. It's a testament to player development and scouting and able to acquire some people who hopefully can help us down the way and give us some more pick and pull as we go forward”
The Orioles broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh Saturday when Twins reliever Jared Burton hit Adam Jones with a pitch. Jones moved to third on a one-out single by Nelson Cruz and then scored when Chris Davis hit a shallow fly to center.
Jones dashed home and easily made it in front of a bouncing throw by Danny Santana. The announced Camden Yards crowd of 30,322 roared its approval of Jones' heady base running.
"I was confident that the way the center fielder had to catch the ball, that he had a chance," Showalter said.
A stout bullpen again made a one-run lead stand up, with Darren O'Day and Zach Britton each pitching scoreless innings. Britton becomes the 10th pitcher to record a 30-save season in modern franchise history. It's the 14th time an Orioles pitcher has had a 30-save season overall.
"We're not reading too much into what we're doing individually," Britton said. "I think that's why we're so successful. We kind of focus on that in the offseason, but right now, it's just about winning games, finding ways to win, and whoever's the guy that day, that's kind of what we're doing. We're passing the baton."
The first-place Orioles (78-56) moved to eight games ahead in the American League East after the second-place New York Yankees lost to the third-place Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. The Orioles are now a season-high 22 games over .500.
Attempting to keep their foot on the pedal in the AL East race, the Orioles announced two trades during Saturday's game. They dealt two low-level minor leaguers to the Chicago White Sox for left-handed-hitting outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is expected to join the team today. They also acquired veteran infielder Kelly Johnson and their former Rule 5 pick, infielder Michael Almanzar, from the Boston Red Sox for Triple-A infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus Jr.
“We're going to continue to look around, but you know, we do have better balance now to our club with the addition of two left-handed hitters that performed well in the American League, and we also saw Jimmy Paredes can contribute to our ballclub based on what he did tonight,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "So we'll get a little bit better balance in filling out our ballclub. We're going to go home and get ready for tomorrow."
The Orioles also received some good news involving one of their own: An MRI on first baseman Steve Pearce's abdomen revealed only a strain. He is considered day-to-day.
Pearce's absence, although it may be temporary, is another example of the club's hoping someone else can seize the opportunity.
On Saturday, it was 25-year-old Jimmy Paredes who gave the Orioles an offensive spark. He homered to left field with two outs in the sixth against reliever Brian Duensing to break a 1-1 tie. It was his first big league home run since going deep for the Houston Astros on May 21, 2013.
“It was awesome,” right-hander Chris Tillman said. “Happy for him. He came in, trying to fit in, and we welcomed him with open arms.”
The Orioles' bullpen gave the lead right back when Tommy Hunter, who had thrown a scoreless sixth in relief of Tillman, allowed a leadoff single to Brian Dozier. Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who had allowed just two of 30 inherited runners to score this season, uncorked a wild pitch to allow Dozier to get to second, and Dozier later scored on a single by Joe Mauer.
That was the only run Miller (5-5) would allow in his one inning as the Twins stranded 11 runners in the game.
Tillman labored throughout his five-inning start, continually putting runners on base and subsequently wiggling out of jams. He put at least one runner in scoring position in each inning, but only one scored: Joe Mauer, on a sacrifice fly in the fifth by Oswaldo Arcia.
After recording his final out of the fifth on his 100th pitch, Tillman was pulled. He struck out six batters but allowed six hits and three walks. Four times the Twins had multiple runners on base against him in an inning, but they stranded eight of them. It was a battle of clubs that couldn't drive in a run.
“A grind, for sure,” Tillman said. “I kind of knew it was going to be a grind from the get-go.”
The Orioles finally broke the pact not to score in the fourth when Paredes, in his first start as an Oriole, hit a deep fly to center that bounced into the Orioles' bullpen for a double, plating Chris Davis from second. J.J. Hardy would have scored easily from first, but had to stop at third base. The Orioles then continued the night's trend, stranding Hardy and Paredes with a lineout, strikeout and groundout.
Paredes, who was called up Thursday and forced into action Friday when Pearce left with his injury, batted seventh and played third base. The 25-year-old hadn't started in the majors since May 27, when he was with the Kansas City Royals.
Now he is in the middle of a pennant race with a club that keeps winning and keeps getting contributions from the whole roster, no matter how much it gets shuffled around.
“It feels good. I'm excited,” Paredes said. “We have a very good team here, we have fun, and we play the game the right way: hard. We're working hard. We're trying to make the playoffs and win the World Series.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun