When shortstop J.J. Hardy's game-winning single skipped up the middle and into center field in the eighth inning Thursday against the Seattle Mariners, afternoon had already turned into evening and about 4½ hours had passed since the Orioles scored their previous run.
The Orioles' 5-4 victory over the Mariners was no doubt a grind. A 2-hour, 5-minute rain delay has sucked the air out of Camden Yards. When play resumed, the Orioles allowed the Mariners back into the game, their three-run lead quickly vanishing.
It wasn't the Orioles' best-played game of the season, but the Orioles persevered with a much-needed victory and a series win over the Mariners.
The win gave the Orioles (18-20) their third win in four games. The Orioles have won 11 of their last 15 against the Mariners at Camden Yards dating back to 2011, and now hope to carry that momentum into this weekend's interleague series in Miami against a Marlins team that has lost seven straight.
"It was actually one of those games when you gain some experience," manager Buck Showalter said. "You kind of get on the plane feeling good about doing something that not just anybody can grind through. It was one of those games that we've been good at over the last three years."
Hardy entered his final at-bat of the day just 5-for-30 on the team's nine-game homestand before lining a 2-1 pitch up the middle past Mariners right-hander Danny Farquhar. That scored Chris Davis from second on an awkward dive and tumble into home plate, just beating catcher Welington Castillo's tag.
"I need to take a look at it," Hardy said of Davis' slide, "because he has been talking to me about it and how athletic it was.
"It's nice to get hits when you're feeling like I feel right now," Hardy continued. "Every day I'm making adjustments. I feel like one day I go up there with a different stance, next at-bat, you know, a different stance. I'm just trying to feel something that feels good and have something to work off of. So it's definitely nice getting hits when you're not feeling great."
Closer Zach Britton needed just 11 pitches to finish a perfect ninth inning, converting his ninth save of the season. Britton struck out the first two batters he faced before inducing a groundout from Justin Ruggiano to end the game.
Showalter knew Thursday's forecast called for rain throughout the afternoon, but his biggest concern was starting the game only for it to be interrupted by a long rain delay that could drag through the day.
Consideration was given to starting the game an hour late to avoid a mid-game stoppage, but it instead began after just a 10-minute delay. But neither team had control over the weather, and the game was halted in the middle of the third inning.
When play resumed, most of the announced 33,085 — many of them school children at the game for Field Trip Day — had long departed as the damp remaining few were treated to a dragged-out affair.
With such a lengthy delay, Orioles starter Chris Tillman couldn't return for the fourth after laboring through three innings of one-run ball. He got up to throw twice during the delay, simulating an inning of work, but once it reached the 45-minute mark, the game was in the hands of the Orioles bullpen.
Tillman allowed just one hit, but walked three and his pitch count was already up to 58 after three innings.
Left-hander Brian Matusz seemed to be a good fit considering the six lefty bats in the Mariners lineup. But Matusz allowed a two-out two-run single to pinch hitter Rickie Weeks in the fourth.
Matusz allowed back-to-back singles to Kyle Seager and Castillo to open the inning, but struck out the next two batters only to walk No. 9 hitter Chris Taylor to load the bases. Weeks then ended a 10-pitch at bat with a single up the middle.
In the seventh, Darren O'Day walked in the tying run, throwing a 3-2 slider inside to Logan Morrison with the bases loaded. Left-hander T.J. McFarland allowed back-to-back singles to open the inning and was replaced by O'Day, who allowed a single to former Oriole Nelson Cruz to load the bases.
O'Day then induced a pair of one-pitch flyouts before walking Morrison on eight pitches. O'Day recovered to prevent further damage, striking out Ruggiano to end the inning.
With the game tied in the eighth, Tommy Hunter (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam. He put runners at first and third with one out before striking out Robinson Cano. He then intentionally walked Cruz to load the bases and induced an inning-ending groundout to third from Willie Bloomquist to end the inning.
"The hitter after Darren walks a guy, that's moxie to come back and get us in the dugout," Showalter said. "Tommy getting a 3-2 [count] groundout there. You'd like to have it not get there."
Steve Pearce put the Orioles up 4-0 with his first career grand slam, off Seattle left-hander J.A. Happ with two outs in the first inning. Pearce jumped on a first-pitch delivery from Happ, an 85-mph changeup, sending it into the left-field seats to clear the bases. It was the Orioles' second grand slam of the season. Jonathan Schoop hit the first April 11 against Toronto.
Given the delay, Pearce said after the game that it felt like his slam was hit an eternity ago.
"It's tough when you start a game and then you get to wait for [two hours], just sitting around and not knowing what's going on," Pearce said. "We had to find some way to stay loose, but we did a good job of that. The pitchers did a great job and kept us in the ballgame and we pulled it out in the end."