It’s mid-August and, somehow, some way, they are still very much in the playoff hunt.
“We still kind of determine our own destiny and that’s how we like it,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, who led the Orioles with a career-high four RBIs Sunday. “There’s not 25 people in the City of Baltimore that want to do it more than us. So we’re trying our best to really make a push here. It’s really now or never. So let’s get after it.”
They got after it plenty Sunday, and have won three straight against the Athletics (51-68), the American League’s worst team. The Orioles (60-56) will go for the four-game sweep Monday at Camden Yards against Oakland’s ace, Sonny Gray.
“We'll have a real challenge with Gray, that's for sure,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, downplaying the club’s playoff jockeying. “We've got 40-something games [left] and we're engaged in the competition.”
The Orioles are in sole possession of the AL's second wild-card spot, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to the Kansas City Royals in 10 innings Sunday night. The third-place Orioles also moved to just four games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East standings.
“Forty-six games remaining,” said center fielder Adam Jones, who had his second multi-homer game of the year with blasts in the third and fifth. “We can control our own destiny. Just go out and win games.”
On Sunday, the Orioles tied a franchise record with 26 hits, first accomplished August 28, 1980 against the California Angels. The offensive explosion included a season-high 10 hits and nine runs in the fifth inning, marks that fell just short of franchise bests. Gerardo Parra, Jones and Chris Davis all had two hits in the inning — the first time multiple Orioles have done that since Gregg Zaun and Luke Scott in 2009.
Eight of the nine Oriole starters had at least two hits, led by Parra, who had five for the third time in his career. He fell a triple shy of a cycle and a hit short of tying Cal Ripken’s Jr.’s franchise record, six-hit performance on June 13, 1999 at Atlanta. It was the 10th time an Oriole has had five hits in a game in Baltimore.
“I don’t think about it. I was trying to put the ball in play,” said Parra, whose sixth at-bat was a line out in the eighth inning. “I know the guys said if you make a base hit, go to third base and go for the cycle. It’s not easy. I was trying to make a base hit.”
Parra, who was acquired in a July 31 trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, had just nine hits in his first 11 games with the Orioles. He’s had nine hits in these three games against the A’s, pumping his Orioles average up from .196 to .295 in three days.
“People don’t realize how hard that is, five hits in one day, come on,” Joseph said about Parra. “To get a chance [for a sixth] and square a ball up in the eighth inning there, he had a great game. … He’s been a great addition to the ballclub.”
Parra started off the scoring for the Orioles with a solo home run in the first against Kendall Graveman (6-9), who allowed six runs in 31/3 innings. That was plenty of support for Orioles left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (7-6) who allowed two runs in six innings.
“I was happy because I never see my teammates score that many runs,” Chen said through an interpreter. “I didn’t really pitch all that well. With all those runs, that’s why we were able to win the game.”
Oakland reliever Dan Otero was the one who really got knocked around, yielding eight runs while getting just four outs. Otero allowed four singles to start the fifth, recorded two outs and then gave up two more singles and a double before being mercifully pulled.
“It was more like follow the leader,” Jones said. “The guy ahead of us was having a good at-bat and I had a good at-bat myself. And the guys behind me and the guys behind” them.
The A’s finished the laugher in the bottom of the eighth with first baseman Ike Davis pitching, the second time he has had to do so this year. Davis gave up the franchise-record-tying 26th hit, a one-out double to Jimmy Paredes. That set up Rule 5 pitcher Jason Garcia’s first big league at-bat, with the record on the line and a hitter on the mound.
Showalter told Garcia, who was batting cleanup because the manager had pulled most of his regulars and lost the designated hitter spot, not to swing.
The rookie still wore batting gloves and used pine tar, even though he looked at four straight pitches for a walk.
“Got to look the part. … I was enjoying it. It’s kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Garcia said. “Especially here. I don’t know when the last time I’ve seen an American League game, a position player throwing against a pitcher. It was kind of cool.”
Davis then struck out Jonathan Schoop and got Steve Clevenger, who had a career-best four hits, to fly out to keep the Orioles from breaking their hits record. It still was a day to remember, especially for a team that was no-hit in Seattle on Wednesday.
“There was a lot of guys that were [ticked] off with what happened [in Seattle], so to come out, even if it was a couple days after, this club is capable of putting up games like that,” Joseph said. “This team is full of fire and you know we’re not giving up.”