There’s really no explaining it. The Orioles played some of their worst baseball of the season last week, but they have had no trouble turning the page against one of the best teams in National League.
They jumped on Washington Nationals starter Tanner Roark for five runs in the first two innings and went on to score a 10-8 victory on Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 39,100 at Nationals Park.
The Nats made several attempts to rally in the middle and late innings before the Orioles erupted for five runs in the top of the eighth to seemingly ensure that they would be going for an unlikely four-game interleague sweep when struggling right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez faces former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the interleague finale Thursday night.
Turned out, nothing seemed assured when the Nats came back with five runs in the bottom of the ninth. Closer Zach Britton had to come in to restore order, but the appearance would cost him his major league-record scoreless streak (43 games) when Anthony Rendon doubled home the final Nats run of the game.
The Orioles improved to 70-56 and pulled within a game of first place in the American League East, as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays lost Wednesday night.
Third baseman Manny Machado delivered on both ends of the Orioles’ third straight victory with a four-hit performance that started with a two-run home run in the first inning and also included run-scoring singles in the second and eighth innings.
“You know what’s funny about him, he’ll go a day or so and it’s almost like he thinks he’s forgotten how to hit," manager Buck Showalter said. “But he works at it. He’s got a lot of pride. He doesn’t like to fail. That’s why he’s been so consistent this year.”
Matt Wieters also drove in four runs with a bases-loaded hit by pitch in the first and a three-run home run in the eighth that proved to be the difference.
“You always try to add on, especially against a great offense like they have," Wieters said. “It was one of those [games]. Ultimately, you would have loved to keep Zach out of there, but every win’s important and winning the game is the most important thing.”
Starting pitcher Wade Miley (8-10) got the big early lead and did not give it back the way he did in Friday night’s ugly loss to the Houston Astros. He pitched five innings and allowed two runs on seven hits before leaving the game with two runners in scoring position and no one out in the sixth.
No problem. Right-hander Mychal Givens came on to strand both runners and the Orioles bullpen kept the Nationals at arm’s length the rest of the way, though not without several moments of high drama.
Left-hander Donnie Hart also turned in a clutch performance when the Nats threatened in the seventh. He came on with runners at first and third with two outs and allowed soft flyball single to score a run, but struck out Bryce Harper on a full-count pitch to preserve a two-run lead.
“Donnie’s not scared," Wieters said. “Nobody in this clubhouse is scared out there on the mound. He had confidence in his breaking ball. He threw a couple that didn’t come out as good as he wanted them to, but he still knew he was going to make the pitch when he needed to.”
Right-hander Parker Bridwell allowed a grand slam to Daniel Murphy to cut the Orioles' seven-run lead to three in the ninth before Britton allowed his first earned run since April 30.
Roark’s wild ride: Roark now knows how Miley felt during his previous start against the Astros on Friday night. Roark was all over the place in the first inning, allowing a mammoth two-run homer to Machado, two other hits, a walk and a pair of hit batters – one of which drove home a run. He finally got out of the inning when Miley bounced out sharply to third base. Roark also gave up an unearned run in the second.
Manny’s 29th: Machado’s home run nearly got out of the seating bowl in left-center field. It was measured by Statcast at 452 feet. His next homer will give the Orioles three batters with at least 30 home runs. Adam Jones is next with 24, so four 30-homer guys this season are not out of the question.
Givens saves the sixth: When Miley found himself in a big jam in the sixth inning, Givens came on to shut the door on a potential rally that could have turned the game around. He had runners at second and third with no outs, but struck out Rendon, got Wilson Ramos on a popout and struck out Ryan Zimmerman to keep the Orioles three runs up.