Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about Saturday's 6-1 win over the Diamondbacks. (Jon Meoli / Baltimore Sun)
Left-hander Wade Miley had lost five of his six decisions as an Oriole when he took the mound Saturday night, and his 7.55 ERA since being acquired from the Seattle Mariners certainly would not have led anyone to expect what would happen next.
Throw in the fact that he had to leave his previous start after four innings with upper back spasms and his performance in the Orioles' 6-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks was just this side of incredible.
The crowd of 40,610 that showed up at Camden Yards to claim a free Orioles hooded sweatshirt and got to see the Wade Miley who once won 16 games for these Diamondbacks and pitched well at times for the Mariners. He came within one out of pitching a complete-game shutout and ushered the Orioles back into the second American League wild-card spot.
“It was huge," Miley said. “We got off to a good start and put them on their heels a little bit early. Score a run in the first and their starter threw a lot of pitches. I was just trying to get in and get quick outs and let those guys go back out there and hit and score some runs.”
Miley had gotten booed at Camden Yards when he left the mound after giving up six runs over 1 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros on Aug. 19. He got a standing ovation as he walked back to the dugout Saturday night.
“That’s kind of what we play for," he said. “You want to go out and do good and do your job and it worked out today.”
Miley got a little too playful after he got back to the dugout, flipping an obscene gesture at friend and former teammate Paul Goldschmidt, who got three of the seven hits off him and scored the run that broke up the shutout on a double by Brandon Drury. The gesture got caught on camera and the screen grab showed up quickly on Twitter.
“You’ve got to be kidding me," Miley said. “It is what it is. I apologize to anyone who saw it other than Goldy.”
The feel-good night also featured the first productive offensive night for the Orioles (84-71) in eight games and another home run by rookie Trey Mancini, who is quickly winning an enthusiastic following at Camden Yards. Mark Trumbo also went deep as the Orioles reeled off nine hits and scored more than three runs for the first time since Sept. 16.
Miley (9-13) had appeared to be a bust after the Orioles lost six of his first eight starts. He hit what appeared to be rock bottom when he lasted just 1 1/3 innings in a lopsided loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 12. It appeared that he had pitched his way out of the rotation when he was brought back for last Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, and he responded with four scoreless innings before being forced off the mound with back problem.
"He's had real good command, and he had a good slider tonight. Real sharp, late," manager Buck Showalter said. "You see nine right-handed hitters out there, you're going have to be able to do some things other than just spot a fastball. He had a lot of things at his disposal that he could use at any point in the count. Couple that with Matt [Wieters] and that gives you a real good chance."
His performance Saturday night came at a good time, because the Detroit Tigers already had lost earlier in the day to pull them back into a tie for the second wild-card slot. The victory moved the Orioles a half-game ahead. They also padded their lead on the Mariners, who lost to the Minnesota Twins to drop 2½ games back.
Trey's trifecta: Mancini did it again Saturday night. He launched his third home run in his ninth at-bat after being called up to the major league roster last Sunday and became only the third player in major league history to homer in each of his first three starts. The others were Carlos Quentin in 2006 with the Diamondbacks and Trevor Story, who homered in his first four starts earlier this season for the Colorado Rockies. Meanwhile, Mancini's family members have become a regular feature on the MASN broadcast celebrating in the stands.
Robbie Ray rocked: The Orioles looked like they were going to get right after D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray, but after scoring a quick run in the first inning and going on to load the bases with no one out, they could not make more of the opportunity. Though they've helped opposing pitchers get out of some situations like that, they kept the heat on Ray, scoring again in the second on a double by Wieters and a sacrifice fly by J.J. Hardy, then adding three more runs on Mancini's homer and Chris Davis' two-run single in the fourth.
This means WAR? Trumbo bashed his major league-leading 45th homer in the fifth inning after hitting the game-deciding home run in the Orioles' three previous victories. So you might think that his WAR (wins above replacement) would be pretty good. And you would be wrong. His WAR is just 1.2, which – if you buy into the stat -- means he is considered worth only one more win than the theoretical average outfielder-designated hitter playing in his place.