The Orioles' starting pitcher clearly lacked his best stuff and admittedly spent most of five busy innings last night in damage control mode. The team ran itself out of several innings, and its offense missed out on a couple of opportunities to make for a relatively easy night on its bullpen.
But when it was over, when first baseman Kevin Millar caught Ryan Zimmerman's searing line drive to secure a 5-3 victory over the Washington Nationals before an announced 29,266 at chilly Camden Yards, the Orioles had won their third straight and for the sixth time in the past seven games.
Just don't ask them how.
"It's Orioles magic," designated hitter Aubrey Huff said.
Garrett Olson survived 10 base runners in five innings, Lastings Milledge's line drive and a two-run deficit before he even got an out. The Orioles received a game-tying solo home run from Luke Scott and a couple of clutch extra-base hits and benefited from some shoddy Nats defense.
The bullpen did the rest, registering four scoreless innings -- two by Matt Albers, one by Jim Johnson, who struck out the side in the eighth, and one by George Sherrill, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save.
"Obviously it's not the way you want to draw it up, playing from behind all the time, but you've got to do an awful lot of little things right to get yourself back in," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, whose team is three games over .500 for the first time since May 2.
"Olson learned how to pitch tonight without his best stuff, and I give him a lot of credit because I don't know whether he would have been able to do that last year. From the first hitter, he didn't have real good velocity, he didn't have real good finish on his pitches, but he competed."
Olson (3-0) allowed three earned runs on nine hits and a hit batsman over five innings, the shortest of his four outings this season. The first three batters he faced got hits, with Zimmerman dropping in a two-run single during the first. That's when Olson's philosophy shifted to damage control.
He allowed only one run even though Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. And then with the score tied and two Nats on in the top of the fifth, Olson snared Milledge's liner -- one of several hard-hit balls that went right at Orioles -- to end the inning and prevent the Nationals from taking the lead.
"When [you don't have your best stuff] ... it could be a long day, but they played good behind me, the offense picked me up, and we got through it," Olson said. "If you make 30 starts a year, maybe you'll have [your A game] 10 or less. There are going to be a big chunk of games where you just have to battle and find it. Fortunately, this was one of those days."
The Orioles put him in position to get the victory by scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth to break a 3-3 tie. Melvin Mora, who made his return to the lineup after missing two games with a sore right shoulder, doubled in Brian Roberts, who led off the inning with a triple. Kevin Millar added an RBI single later in the inning.
"Some people call it Orioles magic I guess, but I really feel like it's the sense of attitude that everybody has -- the confidence and the presence where even if we fall behind, we're still going to battle," said Olson, whose team has won three straight games in come-from-behind fashion. "We showed that tonight."
Perhaps the Orioles also showed they are ready to put their interleague struggles behind them. They entered last night with a 79-114 record in interleague play, the worst in the American League.
"That's history," Mora said. "This is a new year."