ATLANTA — It was deep in the falling action when Friday turned into Saturday at SunTrust Park and Manny Machado homered in the 15th inning to send the Orioles to an eventual 10-7 win over the Atlanta Braves.
And the wild ninth inning that preceded it, waking the sleepy 1-1 game for a climax that yielded no winner, made even that advantage an uncomfortable one.
No lead is safe where the Orioles (22-52) are concerned, not after two hours earlier they built a four-run, ninth-inning lead with six runs of their own only for Zach Britton to turn it back into a tie and send it to extra innings in a mere 16 pitches.
“After that, it was just a rodeo, you know?” Machado said. “See who tries to score first. It's just one of those weird games that you just have to kind of just relax and try to look for that one big hit.”
Because he got it and the Braves (43-31) didn’t before him, he set the tone for how the game will be remembered. The Orioles’ 22nd win came on a day when Alex Cobb pitched seven strong innings, Chris Davis returned to the lineup and homered on his first swing after eight games on the bench, and the team won for the first time when trailing after eight innings all season. The relay play from right field that kept the game-winning run from scoring in the ninth, the impressive plays at third base by rookie Steve Wilkerson and a caught-stealing by Caleb Joseph were elevated from the footnotes.
The only problem, of course, is it never had to get to this point.
“I get asked a lot about how’s the tenor and the mood in the clubhouse,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Guys, they don’t like losing. That’s a good example of what my answer is. Guys are grinding, working and supporting each other. And I wish we could have done it in nine.”
When Cobb left with the score tied at 1 after seven innings, nothing about the game indicated what was coming. The Orioles were handed the first challenge. Instead of going down meekly when Tanner Scott and Brad Brach conspired to allow a pair of runs in the eighth inning to turn a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 deficit, the Orioles batted around in the ninth for their most significant rally of the season.
Center fielder Adam Jones singled, and Machado drew a patient walk to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in Mark Trumbo. He struck out, but after Danny Valencia's second single of the game scored Jones, the Orioles got their most significant stroke of luck all season.
Jonathan Schoop yanked a ground ball down the third base line that had every appearance of a foul ball, but umpire Will Little signaled it was fair, and when a fan reached down in foul territory to grab it, the Orioles were granted the tying run on a play that wasn't reviewable.
During the ensuing pitching change, Showalter subbed in Jace Peterson for Valencia at third base and was rewarded when Davis hit a sinking lineout to left field that scored the speedy utility man for the go-ahead run. An RBI double by Joseph and run-scoring singles by Wilkerson — the first hit of his career — and Craig Gentry extended the Orioles' lead to 7-3. It was not enough, even if it looked like it would be in such a tight game to that point.
Earlier in the night, taking his first game hack since he sat out for eight games to break his terrible slump, Davis hit an opposite-field home run off left-hander Sean Newcomb in the fifth inning, getting the immediate return on all his time in the batting cage that Showalter warned might not come.
“Just because he hit a home run, that’s kind of the least of it for me,” Showalter said. “It was just having him back and just really getting a chance to be back engaged in the competition.”
Davis returned to the dugout to more than the usual cheers from his teammates, though he should have been building on a lead, not creating one. In the second inning, Trumbo hit a 113.2 mph ball to left field that caromed off the wall quickly and caused him to be out trying to stretch it to a double. Three Orioles reached in that inning, and none scored. An inning later, Gentry singled but was thrown out stealing second.
After Davis’ homer, the Orioles didn't have another hit until the eighth inning, but the way Cobb was pitching, it didn't look like they'd need another. Right before Davis opened the scoring for the Orioles, Cobb, who retired the first nine batters he faced on 31 pitches with three strikeouts, allowed singles on the first two pitches of the fourth inning before navigating out of that jam to leave both on base.
He worked around walks in the fifth and sixth before a two-out triple by Dansby Swanson created a jam he couldn't escape in the seventh. Johan Camargo doubled to short right-center field to score Swanson and spoiled one of Cobb's best outings of the season: Seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball with six strikeouts and a pair of walks.
“Alex was as good as he’s been all year,” Showalter said. “That’s a really good club over there. It presents a lot of challenges to defend and Alex was really sharp. He really probably should have had seven shutout innings. That was fun for him.”
Then Cobb left, and the game went crazy.
“I can’t really recall what took place, but I know there’s some pretty good back and forth,” Cobb said.
Scott, who has assumed the high-leverage role of the injured Richard Bleier, got into trouble quickly. After a groundout, he issued a walk, allowed a bloop double and left for Brach as Showalter intentionally walked Nick Markakis to get to Tyler Flowers.
Brach fanned Flowers, but Charlie Culberson followed up a squeeze bunt attempt by dropping a double into short center field. It looked to be the type of blow the Orioles couldn't come back from. They did, and then they had to play for six more innings.
Machado opened the 10th inning with a walk, but no other Orioles player reached until Gentry was hit by a pitch to start the 15th. In between, reliever Darren O'Day gave them 1 2/3 clean innings of relief before three scoreless innings from Miguel Castro and the first of two scoreless frames for Mike Wright Jr. (1-0) en route to his first win of the season. Schoop added an RBI single in the 15th to give the Orioles some padding before Wright finished it with his second scoreless inning.