The Orioles left the nation's capital on a surprising roll, but they need to stay on it for another 10 days and they need a couple of their key players back to give themselves any chance of completing a miracle run to the playoffs.
So, the news that center fielder Adam Jones was back in Baltimore for an MRI before Thursday's game kept everyone in suspense until he returned to the team and informed manager Buck Showalter that the scan revealed nothing more than the back inflammation that sidelined him for the rain-extended three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
What that means exactly isn't clear, but Jones said after the game that it is possible that he will be back in the lineup for the opener of the three-game set that starts Friday night against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. How plausible might be another matter.
The same goes for closer Zach Britton, who underwent an MRI on Tuesday that also confirmed the original diagnosis of a strained left lat. Britton also said after Thursday's game that it is conceivable he'll be available Friday night, but his tone and body language suggested that he still might need more time. He's scheduled to play catch before Friday's game in Boston to see if he is completely pain-free, but even if he is it would not be a surprise if Showalter held him back another day or two.
With Jones sidelined, Showalter moved right fielder Gerardo Parra to center field Wednesday night and gave Ryan Flaherty another opportunity to prove how valuable and versatile he is off the bench.
Flaherty took over in right and had a terrific game Wednesday, crashing into the fence to make a big catch and handling all of his chances without incident. So, the outfield alignment — which included Steve Pearce in left — was unchanged Thursday.
"That's Ryan," Showalter said. "It's very typical of him to sit around for seven, eight, nine days and go out there and play right field like he did [Wednesday] night. He's been out there before. He takes work out there all the time. You watch him during BP and that's his time and he takes it everywhere.
"It's kind of like, 'How'd you know Manny [Machado] could play third base,' 'How'd you know Steve Pearce could play second,' 'How'd you know he could play first?' You kind of trust the makeup and the work ethic and them preparing themselves for what the team needs."
Flaherty hadn't started in right since doing so nine times in 2012. He played one inning in right last season and Wednesday marked his first appearance there in 2015. Flaherty said he was a little nervous heading out there at first, but felt fairly comfortable once the game got under way. His second game out there was uneventful.
"I had to dust my glove off," he said. "It was kind of fun. It's exciting bouncing around and trying to help the team win. Get a chance to get in the lineup and help the team get a 'W.'"
Parra gave the team a scare when he came up sore during an at-bat Wednesday night. He felt a pain in his right shoulder and it was obvious enough to bring Showalter and head athletic trainer Richie Bancells to the plate for a conference, but he remained in the game. He said Thursday that it was nothing serious and he was back in the starting lineup.
Pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, who has been shut down with elbow and forearm tightness, visited Orioles orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs on Thursday and will also visit Dr. James Andrews soon.
"[Jacobs] said the MRI looked good," Showalter said. "So he'll see Dr. Andrews and hopefully they'll concur and he can get back to pitching again. He said the elbow looks pretty good. That was encouraging."
Nats star Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 with two walks and ended up hitless for the series — the first time this season he has been held hitless for three consecutive games. … Of Matt Wieters' seven home runs this season, three have come in the eighth inning or later. … Jonathan Schoop has averaged a home run every 18.9 at-bats this year, which is second on the team only to Chris Davis' 12.5.