Every time the Oriolesarrive at what I like to call a "critical juncture" in the season, they seem to do something that reinforces the notion that they are on a special mission to change the face of baseball in Baltimore.
Maybe Wednesday night's 3-2 victory was only a special late-night treat because the Orioles failed to take full advantage of Rays starter Alex Cobb when he was struggling out of the gate, but it doesn't matter anymore. They just keep building their "wow" factor and revving the crowd into a playoff frenzy.
The big plays that everyone will remember from this game were Manny Machado's pirouette at third base to hang pinch runner Rich Thompson up in a rundown in the top of the ninth and Nate McLouth's long single off the right field scoreboard to give the O's another walk-off victory in the bottom of the inning.
Machado's play showed unusual presence of mind for a rookie who has only been in the major leagues for a few weeks, and one who is playing out of position at third base. He also led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to start the rally that carried the Orioles to their 26th victory against only seven losses in games decided by one run.
McLouth hit a scorching line drive toward the right field corner that was fair by only a couple of feet. It took a strange bounce back into right field, but Machado was already around third base by then and headed for a home plate party with his teammates. Then they chased down McLouth near second base and Chris Davis hoisted the new leadoff hitter over his shoulder and carried him around while he was mauled by the rest of his teammates.
"That was Chris Davis throwing me around like a rag doll,'' McLouth said. "I got beat up pretty good, but it felt good. ... It was a special moment."
Though he has had a very positive impact on the Orioles both with the glove and with the bat since coming up from Triple-A Norfolk, McLouth is almost sheepish about taking any credit for the club's recent success – even Wednesday's game-winning hit.
"Again, because there are so many different contributors and so many people who have stepped up,'' he said. "There were plenty of guys who did great things tonight. You mention Manny and I think [Darren] O'Day had a guy on second with nobody out in the seventh inning and Miguel [Gonzalez] pitched out of a jam in his last inning in the sixth. There were plenty of big performances tonight."