With three consecutive wins against the Texas Rangers, including Wednesday’s come-from-behind, rain-soaked 6-4 victory, an obvious question has arisen.
Manny Machado who?
OK, maybe it’s not really a burning sentiment at this point. But since the Orioles’ Platinum Glove third baseman began serving his five-game suspension Monday -- leaving the Orioles roster short one player -- they haven’t lost.
“It’s impressive, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his club’s 3-0 record with 24 players. “The whole group, I was real proud of them tonight.”
Life without Machado kicked up a notch Wednesday in the seventh inning.
Ryan Flaherty, Machado's temporary replacement at third base, smacked a 91-mph fastball from Texas left-hander Neal Cotts (2-5) onto the flag court beyond right field to give the Orioles a one-run lead and ultimately another win.
It took some time, though.
Play was suspended for 1 hour and 38 minutes with one out in the bottom of the eighth. By the time the game resumed around 11:50 p.m., no more than 200 of the announced 13,478 -- the smallest crowd this season at Camden Yards -- remained.
For chunks of time during the delay it wasn’t raining. But with the game just five outs away from completion, the threat of more rain kept the tarp on the field.
“The frustrating thing is the no rain. It’s not raining, so you want to play. We’re out here to play,” said closer Zach Britton, who remained in the bullpen with coach Dom Chiti during the delay and then threw just 10 pitches in a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances. “Get that game over with. You’re so close to the end, and you’re sitting out there, and it’s not raining. It’s frustrating. When the rain comes, I think the hardest part is just staying engaged in the game.”
The Orioles (45-39) are now six games over .500, tying their season high from May 10 when they were 20-14. They also have achieved a winning record at home (22-21) for the first time since May 12. And they remain one game behind the American League East-leading Toronto Blue Jays (47-39), who beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-4, on Wednesday.
The Orioles will go for the four-game sweep Thursday against the injury-depleted Rangers (37-47) and their ace, right-hander Yu Darvish. And they hope to keep hitting home runs.
Center fielder Adam Jones hit a solo shot in the fourth, his 16th homer of the season, and Flaherty’s fourth of the year provided the eventual game-winner in the seventh. It was the sixth straight game in which the Orioles have gone deep at least twice and their 25th multihomer game in their last 42.
All of Flaherty’s homers this season have come at Camden Yards. His homer Wednesday was the 20th of his career and just his third against a left-hander. If the Orioles were at full strength, he likely wouldn’t have gotten that at-bat.
“Lefty comes into the game, and I’m just trying to stay closed on him, fight him the other way, and he left a pitch 3-1 over the plate,” Flaherty said. “In the situation with the roster the way it is I [knew I] might have to take that at-bat and then just try and contribute.”
Through five innings, the Orioles’ top starter, Chris Tillman, was outpitched by Miles Mikolas, a converted reliever who had never made a major league start and had never before pitched for the Rangers in a regular season game.
Mikolas, who made a combined 27 appearances for the San Diego Padres in the past two years, hadn’t yet pitched in the majors this year. He was recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Round Rock after the Rangers designated former Orioles left-hander Joe Saunders for assignment.
On his first pitch, Mikolas induced Nick Markakis to ground out -- part of an 11-pitch perfect inning for the 25-year-old right-hander. He cruised through five innings, allowing just three hits and the one run on Jones’ homer. He almost gave up another home run, but Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin jumped at the wall to rob Nelson Cruz of his 27th home run.
In the sixth, Mikolas walked the first two batters he faced -- the only two he allowed in the game -- and he was removed for right-hander Jason Frasor after throwing just 77 pitches.
The Orioles pounced on Frasor, though the 36-year-old veteran partially caused his own trouble.