LOS ANGELES — As Wednesday afternoon turned into evening, and Jonathan Schoop pulled into second base after his game-winning hit — a 14th-inning bloop to center field that ended a string of zeros on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard — he looked into a weary but suddenly excited Orioles dugout, smiled and gave a subtle chest pound with one hand.
"I was going crazy, but I didn't want to show it," Schoop said. "I showed it a little bit, but I was going crazy inside. I was 0-for-6 and I wanted to come through big for the team there and get a win."
The Orioles completed their three-city, nine-game road trip on a high note, surviving a 5-hour, 26-minute amazing race with a 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 14 innings. They return home for their final three games before the All-Star break with a 4-5 record on a trip that saw some of their greatest weaknesses exposed during a season-long five-game losing streak in Seattle and Los Angeles.
They boarded a charter flight back east much later than expected Wednesday, but welcomed a well-deserved day off Thursday before completing the first half of the season with three games against the Los Angeles Angels this weekend at Camden Yards.
"These games are mentally exhausting for the guys that are playing, especially the guys that played the 14 innings," closer Zach Britton said. "I know we are into an off-day. But if you put that kind of effort into that game, it is definitely a lot better to have a win going back home."
Schoop said there would be plenty of time to rest on the flight back to Baltimore, but it was important to come out with a win Wednesday, not only to salvage the road trip but because one win can be the difference between making the postseason and missing it.
"This is the major leagues, every win counts and we're aware of that," Schoop said. "This win is going to help us in September. We can't say, 'OK, let this one go away and we'll get one tomorrow.' We've got to fight it, even if we've got to play 20-30 innings. We're going to fight it. After the game, we're going to sleep. But in the game, you've got to focus and stay in the game and stay in the moment."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter half-joked that Wednesday's game took so long that he'll be bringing a sunburn back home to Baltimore. Britton had gotten up five times in the Orioles bullpen before closing the game in the 14th and said he was running on fumes maneuvering through the final frame. Slugger Mark Trumbo, who hit two homers Wednesday to reclaim the major league lead with 26 homers, called it grueling.
"Seldom there's a lot of fun to be had when you get past regular nine innings, especially when it started creeping into 13, 14, 15 or more," Trumbo said. "Everyone is pretty spent, usually. It's just really tough. You want to win them, obviously. It feels much better. But it's very taxing. Fortunately we have an off-day tomorrow."
An Orioles bullpen that logged nine scoreless innings Wednesday will receive well-deserved rest, and was a major reason why the Orioles were able to finish the road trip on a positive note.
But on the road trip, the Orioles rotation was exposed. The starters posted just three quality starts in nine games, and hobbled into the All-Star break with more questions than answers. The rotation is undoubtedly the team's weakness — the starters' 5.14 ERA is the second worst in the American League — and even Showalter conceded he just wants to get to the All-Star break to reassess the rotation.
Two members of the Opening Day rotation — youngsters Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson — have been demoted to the minors and veteran right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, whom the Orioles are saddled with because of his huge contract, has struggled. Even talented right-hander Kevin Gausman has been inconsistent.
Right-hander Chris Tillman, the rotation's anchor, broke the Orioles out of their skid Tuesday, giving the team its deepest start since June 25 with seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just five hits, improving his record to 11-2 as the rotation's sole bright spot.
"We've kind of been scuffling a little bit, especially on this road trip," said right-hander Kevin Gausman, who allowed four runs over five innings Wednesday but posted a quality start in his previous outing in Seattle. "It's good to get the last two. With what Tillman did last night, coming in [I'm] trying to do the same thing today. Obviously didn't go as long. But these are the games that matter, especially going into the break. You want to kind of finish strong. We've been scuffling, but to get that last one, especially being the tough one it was, was big."
The Orioles were able to break out of their five-game losing streak, taking two of three in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers are 10 games over .500 at home. The Orioles' two victories at Dodger Stadium in their first trip there since 2004 improved their resume following a seven-game winning streak against sub-.500 teams like the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays.
"You have a tough stretch there in Seattle," Showalter said. "We end up going 4-5 on a tough road trip. Went into two tough places, really three. They're playing as good as anybody in their league right now. We're fortunate with the pitching they have to come in and take two out of three. Regardless, we'll treat each other the same way and have the same feeling that tomorrow is going to be better. These guys are really deserving of a day not playing baseball."