Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun columnist, on the 13th-inning home run from the Orioles' Manny Machado that lifted the O's to an 8-6 win over the Oakland A's at Camden Yards. (Baltimore Sun video)
It took 13 innings and nearly 4 1/2 hours, but the Orioles emerged with an 8-6 victory Friday night thanks to the second career game-ending homer by budding superstar Manny Machado.
Machado catapulted the second pitch from Oakland Athletics reliever Aaron Brooks over the left-field wall to give the Orioles the win and the 23-year-old Machado his 25th homer of the season.
As Machado neared home plate, his buddy Jonathan Schoop, who had given him a few words of pressing encouragement moments before, sprayed Machado with a water bottle.
"Right before that, he told me, 'Everybody wants to go home. Let's go and finish this off,'" Machado said.
And Machado did, for the Orioles' fifth walk-off win of the season and fourth via the home run, joining Schoop, Matt Wieters and David Lough with game-ending homers in 2015. Machado had accomplished it one other time in his career, on July 29, 2014 versus the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards.
"We needed this win, we needed this win to get us going," Machado said. "We're just glad we got it over with, however it was."
With the victory, the Orioles (58-56) avoided returning to .500 again in this seesaw season. Coupled with an Angels loss Friday, the Orioles moved within 1½ games of the second American League wild card and back into third place in the AL East, five games behind the division-leading New York Yankees. The Orioles also improved to 4-4 in extra innings this season. The A's (51-66) have now lost four consecutive games and three of four to the Orioles so far this year.
The Orioles and A's traded potential scoring opportunities and solid bullpen performances until the 11th when Caleb Joseph hit a one-out double against Athletics reliever Drew Pomeranz (4-5), who then left because of forearm tightness. Brooks entered, and two pitches later, the Orioles were victorious.
Machado's heroics provided Orioles rookie right-hander Jason Garcia (1-0) with the first win of his career. He picked up three consecutive groundouts on just six pitches in the 13th, the only inning he pitched.
"I was pretty nervous when I went out there," said Garcia, who said he'll be sending the game ball to his parents to be put in a case. "But I try not to let it overwhelm me and just trust my stuff."
Lasting 4 hours, 27 minutes, it was the Orioles' longest game of the year time-wise, and tied May 23 in Miami for the longest in terms of innings.
It could have ended in nine, but a few well-placed rollers sent it into extras.
Leading by two in the bottom of the ninth, the Orioles did what they've done all season - handed the ball to closer Zach Britton and waited for ground balls to turn into outs.
The sinkerballer induced his grounders, but the outs didn't come quickly enough. Two infield singles followed by two groundouts cut the Orioles' lead to 6-5.
Former Oriole Danny Valencia then followed with a two-out single to tie it at 6-6. After another single and another groundout, Britton walked off the mound having blown just his second save in 30 chances this year.
"They didn't hit anything hard. The best ball they hit all day was Danny's, so you just try to make better pitches, I guess, and keep them to that one run," Britton said. "Just one of those days, and that happens with the sinker. It's happened before, and it's not going to be the last time that happens."
Britton nearly picked up the win when the Orioles started the bottom of the ninth with consecutive singles. After a strikeout and a groundout, J.J. Hardy smacked a hard comebacker up the middle that struck pitcher Fernando Rodriguez. The reliever couldn't locate the ball at first, but found it next to his foot and threw to first to just get Hardy in time, stopping Gerardo Parra from scoring the winning run.
"I don't think I've ever seen a ball hit a guy's foot and stop right there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That made it even better, all the baseball gods you overcame tonight. It didn't look like there was going to be much going in our favor."
The Orioles looked like they were on their way to victory in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to another Eutaw Street homer by first baseman Chris Davis. The two-run shot onto the street behind the right-field flag court broke a 4-4 tie, and sent the announced 36,784 at Camden Yards into a frenzy.
A short-lived frenzy – but one that erupted again several innings later.
The seventh-inning blast was Davis' 32nd homer of the season and put him in a tie with the Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson for most RBIs in the AL at 85.
Davis, who joined the Orioles from the Texas Rangers in July 2011, also moved up on several Orioles home run lists. It was his third Eutaw Street homer of the season, and a record eighth by any one player in stadium history. He also now has 85 homers at Camden Yards, tying him with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. for fifth all-time in the ballpark, which opened in 1992.
Early on, Adam Jones nearly single-handedly made sure starter Ubaldo Jimenez wouldn't get tagged for the loss. With the Orioles trailing 4-0, Jones had a three-run homer in the fifth and then tied the game in the seventh with a shallow sacrifice fly to center for four RBIs in two plate appearances.
Machado rushed home from third and scored when A's catcher Stephen Vogt couldn't make the immediate catch and tag, and the ball skipped away.
Coming off his self-proclaimed best start of the season – eight scoreless two-hit innings against the Angels last Saturday – Jimenez retired the first five batters he faced Friday. But he ultimately allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out six in five innings. Jimenez has now lasted five innings or fewer in four of six outings since the All-Star break.
The big blow was a two-run homer to right by Vogt on a two-out, two-strike sinker in the fifth inning. Friday's outing could have been worse for Jimenez, but the A's ran into two outs at home plate.
"It was a little bit disappointing because I couldn't go more than five innings," Jimenez said. "I threw way too many pitches. They had to use the bullpen right away."
Oakland's starter, 30-year-old Brad Mills, was 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three games against the Orioles heading into Friday night and 1-4 with a 10.16 ERA in 17 games versus the rest of the majors. Mills, who was called up Friday from Triple-A Nashville, kept the Orioles scoreless through four innings.
Hardy's two-out single in the second was the Orioles' first hit since Davis' eighth-inning homer in Seattle on Tuesday – a span that included a day off and a no-hitter Wednesday by Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma. The Orioles had two two-out hits in the inning, but couldn't score.
The Orioles finally reached Mills in the bottom of the fifth when Jones lined a pitch over the left-field wall for a three-run homer. It was his 20th home run of the season, giving him five consecutive seasons reaching that milestone.
And then the Orioles held on until they could win it in the 13th.
"It was a great experience to be out there and watch that kind of game because the guys never gave up. They kept fighting the whole game and the guys in the bullpen were great," Jimenez said. "It was one of those wins at the end of the season where you look back and say, 'That kind of win - that was the one that put us there.'"