BALTIMORE - One swing from Matt Wieters changed an entire series, and might have also put a charge into the Orioles' otherwise absent offense for the rest of this week's homestand.
Wieters launched a two-run home run into the Birds' bullpen in the eighth inning and lifted Baltimore past Washington 2-1 Sunday in front of 41,794 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (41-31) had scored a mere three runs in the series before Wieters' blast, and they were in jeopardy of being shut out for the third time in the last six games. But instead of dropping two of three to the NL-rival Nats, they won the series and finished interleague play with an 11-7 record this season.
This was a series for pitching fans - both teams struggled at the plate and combined to go 3 for 33 with runners in scoring position. On Sunday, Orioles starter Jake Arrieta kept his team in the game with six innings of one-run ball. Arrieta struck out five and turned in his fifth start of allowing one run or fewer.
Wieters ensured his battery mate of a no-decision in the eighth. The Orioles catcher took Sean Burnett deep to left-center on an 0-1 pitch for home run No. 10 after Adam Jones led off the inning with a single to right.
Burnett, a lefty, entered the game leading the National League relievers in ERA at 1.04. But the switch-hitting Wieters moved over to the right side and connected for only his second homer this year against left-handed pitching.
Pedro Strop (4-2) got the win in relief and Jim Johnson continued to dominate in the closer role. Johnson earned his 22nd save of the year - Johnson had 21 career saves before this season.
"We had situations all day where we couldn't quite scratch across some runs but Jake did a great job today, our bullpen did a great job of keeping us close," Wieters said. "To be able to take that lead, it's a good feeling. Everyone was battling up there, trying to grind through at-bats to get a run, and to finally get one was great."
Wieters flashed his defensive skills, too, completing a double play to end the game by gunning down Ian Desmond trying to steal second base after Johnson fanned Danny Espinosa for the second out.
It was an all-around performance not lost on Wieters' teammates.
"I mean, to win a ballgame like that the way we've been swinging was something we needed," said Orioles shortstop J.J Hardy. "It just didn't seem like we were going to piece together a bunch of hits. With Jones leading off that inning and 'Wiets' doing that, it was clutch. Anytime you can get the lead and give the ball over to Jim Johnson, it's a good feeling for us."
The Nationals (41-29) scored first on Ryan Zimmerman's RBI single in the third inning. Zimmerman was 5 for 48 in his last 13 games before Sunday. But other than a Bryce Harper double to lead off the sixth, Arrieta, Troy Patton, Strop and Johnson didn't allow a runner past second base the rest of the way.
This year's "Battle of the Beltways" went Baltimore's way. The Orioles won four of six games and are 11-4 at home against the Nats since 2008.
"I'm glad that part of it is over because they're a good team and very hard to beat," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You can see why they're one of the best teams in the National League. They've got great starting pitching and a solid bullpen, and of course Davey [Johnson] does a great job. It's a young team that's only going to get better."
Baltimore is off Monday and hosts Los Angeles (two games) and Cleveland (four) to resume AL play and close out its current homestand. And things likely won't get easier at the plate for the Orioles, with the Angels expected to start C.J. Wilson (8-4) on Tuesday and Jeff Weaver (7-1) on Wednesday.
"That's why it's the major leagues and it's the best pitchers and players in the world," Showalter said. "There was a good vibe in our dugout today. You could tell how much this game meant to them and it was frustrating for them because we were so close a few times. It's one thing about setting the table, like in pool, and you just can't make the shot sometimes."