From the Orioles' perspective, nearly everything seemed gloomy prior to Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers.
The weather was rainy and miserable, the tarp was on the field, and the forecast showed no let up in sight. Even if the game did go on as scheduled, Baltimore's lineup still looked punchless, and their patchwork pitching staff was in desperate need of a good start from a man the Orioles claimed off the waiver wire less than two weeks ago.
All signs appeared to point to yet another miserable day for Baltimore.
But when the sun finally broke through the clouds just before game time, it seemed to melt away some of the Orioles' recent woes. Jo-Jo Reyes pitched six surprisingly strong innings and Baltimore strung together 14 hits to defeat the Tigers 8-5 in front of 18,348 at Camden Yards.
Reyes, who was making only his second start for the Orioles after being claimed off waivers Aug. 2, held the Tigers to just four hits and struck out four despite throwing only 91 pitches. It was easily the best performance by an Orioles starter since Chris Tillman went seven innings and gave up only two runs against the Blue Jays on Aug. 6.
"It was good," said Reyes, who began his career with the Braves but spent most of last season in the Blue Jays' farm system. "There is some stuff that me and [pitching coach] Rick [Adair] have been working on in the bullpen. It actually carried over very well today and I've just got to keep working and concentrating on one pitch at a time and throw up zeros."
Reyes shutting down one of the American League's best lineups was certainly a surprise, but what made the victory all the more surprising is that the Orioles backed up Reyes' performance with some timely hitting off starter Doug Fister, and they did it in more than one inning.
"We scored some of the tack-on runs today," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "We didn't just sit around there after we scored the two runs. We kept throwing runs up there."
Throughout the season, Baltimore has consistently been unable to come up with clutch hits and knock opponent's starters out of the game, something that Showalter has brought up often of late. But on Sunday, Nolan Reimold -- batting leadoff for just the second time this season -- went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a walk and three runs scored, Nick Markakis went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs and Adam Jones went 3-for-3.
"It felt good to put some runs on the board and get out to an early lead," Reimold said. "It's fun [batting leadoff]. It's a little different role, but I enjoy it. I'll keep hitting leadoff if that's where they put me."
Of course, as is often the case with this Orioles squad, they managed to turn what looked like an easy victory into a nail-biter late in the game. Things got a little ugly in the ninth when Kevin Gregg came on with an 8-1 lead. He gave up three straight hits, walked Alex Avila and Ramon Santiago with the bases loaded, and then gave up an RBI single to Austin Jackson. Gregg left the mound without recording an out, and heard a shower of boos as he walked to the dugout.
But Jim Johnson -- with a little help from Reimold -- rescued the Orioles from a potential disaster. Johnson struck out Andy Dirks with runners on second and third, and got Magglio Ordonez to ground out. With first base open, Showalter elected to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera, and that brought pinch hitter Brennan Boesch to the plate, representing the potential winning run.
Boesch sliced an opposite-field line drive toward the left-field corner, but Reimold got a great break on the ball and made a nice running catch across his body to end the game.
"That's a heck of a play for a right-handed guy, the ball slicing away there," Showalter said. "Nolan had a big day. I'm proud of him. He did a lot of things well today."
Baltimore got off to a nice start against Fister, who has pitched well this year despite a 4-12 record. Reimold singled to open the game, and two batters later, Markakis lofted a two-run home run just over the wall in left-center.
It was Markakis' 12th home run of the season, but his first hit of the series, meaning he has now collected a hit in 178 consecutive series -- the longest streak in the majors.
"Yeah, I was aware of it," Markakis said of his streak. "But you can't look at that stuff. You've just got to go out there, play the game and whatever happens happens. All good things come to an end, eventually."
The Orioles scored three runs in the fifth when Reimold led off the inning with a double, and Markakis and Jones followed with singles. Vladimir Guerrero even got into the act with a clutch RBI single to left field that drove in both Markakis and Jones and gave the Orioles a 6-1 lead. Since he was dropped to fifth in the order, Guerrero has gone 5-for-12 with four RBIs in the past three games.
It wasn't all sunshine for the Orioles. Mark Reynolds continued his recent struggles at the plate and in the field. He made two errors Sunday, giving him 23 on the season -- the most ever for an Orioles third baseman -- and has just one hit in his past 26 at bats.
And Reyes was let down a bit by his defense in the second inning when Markakis let a catchable foul ball drop in front of him after a miscommunication with Robert Andino. Santiago hit the very next pitch for a home run, the only run Reyes gave up.
But overall, Showalter was pleased to scratch out a win, something the Orioles have done just four times this month.
"Believe me, these guys are tossing and turning," Showalter said. "There's not a whole lot of sleep going on. And they're all big games for Detroit right now. To be able to come out with that intensity, I'm proud of them."