Catcher Steve Clevenger wore an appropriate T-shirt during his postgame interview after the Orioles’ 10-inning, walk-off, 5-4 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
“Just Happy to Be Here, Hope I Can Help The Ballclub,” the shirt read.
Clevenger (Mount St. Joseph) had just cleaned off from a celebratory pie to the face. His one-out RBI double in the bottom of the 10th was the game-winning hit, capping his first three-hit game of the season. His bunt base hit sparked a game-tying rally in the seventh.
Don't look now, but the Orioles (20-14, .588) enter Sunday with the third-best record in the American League, behind the Detroit Tigers (21-11, .656) and the Oakland Athletics (22-15, .595).
“Just putting up good at-bats,” Clevenger said of the Orioles' recent form, which includes a five-game winning streak. “Just going out there and competing. I think that’s been huge for us. Our lineup’s been kind of banged up. We don’t have Chris [Davis] here. We’re just trying to move the line along as a lineup and let the next person do something behind you.”
Also lost in the game was the step forward Miguel Gonzalez took with his longest outing of the season. Gonzalez relied on his breaking ball early against a free-swinging Astros lineup looking for fastballs.
“It was worth the wait,” Gonzalez said of the win. “I thought we played a great game. We battled. We got the win. That’s the most important thing. We played as a team. We made some good plays when we needed to. Clevenger called a great game and his last hit was nice. I saw him really comfortable and relaxed and ready to go, and he got a pitch to hit.”
Even though closer Tommy Hunter suffered his second blown save of the season, and now has allowed 24 base runners in 14 1/3 innings, Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t sound too concerned.
"What we've got to do is try to do a better job of not creating so many save situations,” he said. “It happened last year, and it's something we'd like to get better at. But you're one pitch away from closing out a good game. Our guys came back. They picked each other up.”
Hunter acknowledged that he was frustrated because, had he closed out the game in the top of the ninth, the game would have been finished before the rain came soon after.
“It is" frustrating, Hunter said. “You have a day game the next day, you want to come in and close it out quick. But it didn't fall that way. And these guys battled. They came up with some clutch hits. ... It’s a good group of guys. A good team.”
Shortstop J.J. Hardy, who scored from first base on Clevenger’s game-winning hit, said he took a while to recuperate from chugging around the bases.
"I was tired, yeah,” Hardy said. “After I slid home and then realized I had to go run out and meet Clevy and give him a high five. I could barely get out there."
Showalter’s decision to pinch hit right-handed hitter Delmon Young for left-handed hitter David Lough against right-hander Anthony Bass with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth paid off when Young drove in the game-tying run by beating out an infield single.
"If the guy had a little different repertoire, I probably would have stayed with David, but he's a hard-sinker guy,” Showalter said of the decision. “Everything's pretty hard. Not that I don't think David can get that done, but I like that matchup. He chopped a ball up the middle. ... Delmon did a great job in the offseason. He worked so hard with his body, and he ran so well in the spring, and tonight, he and we got a return for it."
This was a win that conjured memories of the team’s 2012 playoff season, when the Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games and owned extra innings.
"Resilient,” Hardy said. “It's like a couple years ago when we had that not-give-up attitude. Maybe this jump-starts something for us. We kind of feel that the game's never over, and especially if it's a one-run game."