Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck discusses the Orioles' 3-2 ninth inning win over the Washington Nationals. (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun video)
Before he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth Friday and delivered the first walk-off homer in his big league career to give the Orioles a 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals, second baseman Jonathan Schoop made a deal with his buddy Manny Machado.
"Manny told me to hit a double for me to drive you in or hit a home run, one of those two," said Schoop, who has five homers on the season and two since coming off the disabled list Sunday. "I said, 'I'm going to try to hit a double for you and you drive me in.' I didn't want to be selfish, you know? But we're brothers, and I know he's really happy for me right now."
So was the announced 46,289 at Camden Yards – marking the fourth sellout and largest crowd of the season – which witnessed the Orioles' second game-ending homer of the year and third walk-off victory. Their last was on May 29 against the Tampa Bay Rays and their only other game-winning home run was April 25, when David Lough went deep against the Boston Red Sox.
"It felt awesome," said starter Chris Tillman, who allowed two runs in six innings to keep the Orioles in the game. "We were just talking about how I don't feel like we've been able to take the field after a walk-off for a while now. I think as long as you keep working and pushing yourself, it's possible."
Schoop's homer was particularly dramatic. It came with two outs and on a 2-2 pitch – a slider from Washington reliever Tanner Roark (4-4) that he lifted into the left-field seats. It snapped a three-game losing streak and gave the Orioles (44-42) just their third win in 11 tries.
"It's a good W for us," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And we'll see what the next two days bring."
The National League East-leading Nationals (46-39) have now lost three straight and have scored three or fewer runs in seven of their past eight. The Orioles are 36-30 all-time against their geographic rivals to the south.
The Orioles tied it, 2-2, in the eighth when pinch hitter Chris Parmelee singled to lead off the inning and catcher Matt Wieters delivered a one-out RBI double against Washington reliever Matt Thornton.
Closer Zach Britton (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth to keep it tied and, ultimately, picked up his first victory of the year.
In a battle of two starting pitchers who have not performed as well as anticipated this season, Tillman and Washington's Gio Gonzalez took a combined shutout into the fourth inning. Ultimately, both ended up with quality starts and no-decisions.
"That guy [Gonzalez] is good. He's a good pitcher," Tillman said. "And you knew it was going to be a low-scoring game from the get-go. It was fun to be a part of."
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones ended that with his 12th homer of the season, a solo shot to left to lead off the bottom of the fourth. It was the second home run this week for Jones, who will be starting Tuesday's All-Star Game for the third consecutive year.
Tillman, however, immediately surrendered the lead in the fifth. He allowed singles to the first two batters and then served up a two-out RBI double to Tyler Moore. Michael Taylor followed with an RBI single to left field to give the Nats a 2-1 lead. Left fielder Nolan Reimold might have had a chance at throwing out Moore at home, but the ball skipped off Reimold's glove.
Tillman lowered his season ERA from 5.57 to 5.40, giving up eight hits and a walk while striking out six.
"I feel like I made a lot of good pitches tonight to both sides of the plate," he said. "And I think it kept them honest."
It was his seventh quality start in 17 attempts this year, but Tillman did continue an alarming trend. In 26 innings this year, the Orioles have tied a game or taken the lead with Tillman pitching; in 13 of those, he has given up at least one run in the very next frame.
"Just because we scored only one run off a very good pitcher, you don't say, 'OK, he gave up a run,'" Showalter said. "I don't think anybody felt like we were going to win 1-0 tonight, so I'll take that outing Chris had."
Tillman's counterpart Friday, Gonzalez, entered the night with a 4.16 ERA – a half-point higher than his career mark. The lefty has been better of late, allowing just one run in his previous two games spanning 14 innings.
He was pulled in the seventh Friday after allowing a leadoff walk to Jimmy Paredes. The runner didn't score, allowing Gonzalez to escape with just one run allowed in six-plus innings while permitting six hits and three walks.
Perhaps most important for the Orioles - they continued their success at home, improving to 27-16 this season at Camden Yards.
"This is our home. We love to play here," Tillman said. "We love to play in front of our fans. You can't find a better atmosphere in baseball, I don't think. And I think we thrive off that, we really do. I think we've shown that over the years."