The dog days of August don’t usually include three-hour, nine-minute rain delays, but a little more than 12 hours after their game against the Kansas City Royals ended early Sunday morning with a loss, the Orioles were back on the field at Camden Yards trying to salvage a series split.
The Orioles’ series finale against the Royals was the club’s 30th game in 31 days since the All-Star break. Grinding through the yawns and tired eyes of Sunday would reward the Orioles with a much-welcomed off day Monday.
The Orioles’ 5-3 win Sunday afternoon sent the O’s into the off day sitting in the second American League Wild-Card spot, a half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. The Orioles (62-53) gained a game on the division-leading Yankees, cutting their AL East lead to 5 ½ games, but remained in third place in the division because the Rays, who hold the top wild-card spot, also won Sunday.
“I think we’ve been doing alright,” Orioles shortstopJ.J. Hardysaid of the 30-game stretch, which the Orioles completed with a 17-13 record. “We’re definitely tired. Everyone’s tired out there. It’s August, so it’s not like we’re the only team that’s tired. But these off days are big for us.”
The Orioles extended their record in games decided by two or fewer runs to 39-17 after first baseman Mark Reynolds, who sat out the past two games, came through with the game-winning single in a tied game in the sixth, taking a slider from Royals reliever Louis Coleman to left field and allowing Adam Jones to score from second in front of an announced crowd of 20,935.
Rookie third baseman Manny Machado hit his third career homer in his fourth major league game, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run blast to left off Royals starter Bruce Chen. Of Machado’s six major league hits, five are for extra bases (three homers, one triple, and one double). With at least one extra-base hit in his first four games as an Oriole, Machado shares a club record with Ray Knight, Lee May and Frank Robinson.
“That's crazy,” Machado said when told of the accomplishment after the game. “That's the first time I heard it.”
The Orioles were outhit 8-6, but the O’s bullpen threw four perfect innings in relief of starter Tommy Hunter, who left a game tied at 3 after five innings.
Machado’s arrival — and the team’s dedication to playing him regularly — has cut into Reynolds’ playing time because third baseman Wilson Betemit had started the previous two games at first. But Reynolds made the most of his start Sunday, coming through with the game-winning hit and scoring two runs. He walked before Machado’s homer.
“It’s what I’ve got to do,” Reynolds said. “It’s the situation I’m in. When I’m in there, I’ll be ready to go.”
Reynolds also made a huge defensive play in the Royals’ two-run fourth. With two runners in scoring position and two out in a game tied at 2, Reynolds dove to his left and backhanded a ball down the line to rob Chris Getz of extra bases and end the threat.
“He doesn't want to let his team down,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Reynolds. “He's made a lot of contributions this year, especially going over to first base and kind of settling that down defensively for us. We all know what he's capable of offensively. If I know Mark, he'll continue to be ready when called on.”
Up 4-3, the Orioles added an insurance run in the eighth when Nate McLouth scored on a passed ball on catcher Brayan Pena.
Mike Moustakas homered to open the fourth and Pena’s sacrifice fly to left tied the game at 2 before Reynolds’ play on Getz. The Royals took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on a double-play ball that came after back-to-back leadoff singles off Hunter.
Hunter allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings and allowed a home run in his 10th consecutive start. Hunter has allowed 27 homers, tied for second most in the majors.
Nick Markakis’ 13th homer of the season — a solo shot to right that came on a full-count pitch — tied the game in the fifth.