There is something about the annual interleague rivalry series against the Washington Nationals that brings out the best in the Orioles.
They have a 19-11 all-time record against the Nats at Orioles Park and also have won more than they've lost in the nation's capital since the former Montreal Expos moved into the Mid-Atlantic region.
So, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the slumping Orioles suddenly woke up and swept the home half of the two-here, two-there series with an uplifting 8-1 victory over the first-place Nationals before 26,697 at Camden Yards.
Who knows what happens when the split series moves to Nationals Park, but the Orioles really needed to change the narrative after the way they were pushed around by the Red Sox and Astros during the first six games of this homestand.
Kevin Gausman pitched six scoreless innings, and the Orioles offense touched up hard-throwing rookie Reynaldo Lopez for six runs (four earned) in just 2 2/3 innings.
Gausman needed 110 pitches to get that far and registered his fifth victory in 15 decisions with the help of a three-inning save by long reliever Vance Worley, but manager Buck Showalter said that the high pitch count was understandable against the National League's third-best scoring offense.
"You can say there were a lot of deep counts and there were a lot of pitches…but you can't drop your guard against those guys,'' he said. "There are so many land mines through their order that you've just got to keep grinding. You'll take the finished product. He gave us six shutout innings."
It has been a strange season for Gausman, who is 5-1 at home and 0-9 on the road, but he has given up two earned runs or fewer in four of his last five starts.
"I feel like I'm starting to string together some good starts and, more importantly going deep in games,'' Gausman said. "I think our bullpen's been worn out a lot lately. We've kind of put them (the relievers) into some tough situations."
Adam Jones sparked the offensive attack with a four-hit performance at the top of the lineup and every Orioles hitter had reached base by the sixth inning.
Lopez never got a chance to get comfortable. Jones opened the Orioles' half of the first inning with a long at-bat that resulted in a hard bouncer through the middle, and Mark Trumbo hit a two-out line drive to left field to give O's a quick lead.
The Orioles added two runs in the second on an RBI double by Matt Wieters and a run-scoring infield single by Jones, then put three runs on the board in the third. The big blow in that inning wasn't a big blow at all. It was a two-out bouncer to second by J.J. Hardy that glanced off the glove of Daniel Murphy and brought home two runs.
Gausman gave up six hits — four of them by leadoff hitter Trea Turner. But Turner's big night at the plate was blunted by a strange night on the bases. He twice had stolen bases taken away on a night when Showalter made three successful video challenges – something that has happened only two other times in the majors this year.
Deja review: Turner must have thought he was in a time warp. He was called safe at second on a stolen base attempt in the first inning, but the Orioles asked for a video review and the call was overturned when the replay showed that Jonathan Schoop pulled Wieters' high throw down just in time. Two innings later, Turner again was called safe on a steal attempt and this time the call was overturned when the replay showed that Schoop caught Wieters' low throw right against Turner's thigh before the Nats center fielder touched the bag. And it was déjà vu all over again when Gausman walked Jayson Werth right after each review.
That's huge,'' Jones said. "That guy, Trea Turner, he's a burner…an absolute burner, and to have him off the bases is a huge thing because any ball put in play that results in a hit, he's going to score with that speed."
Caught on video, Part III: Showalter asked for a manager's review for the third time in the third inning when Jones was called out on a close play at first base. Once the call was reversed, the Orioles had bases loaded, but they were not able to add to their six-run lead.
Davis homerfest continues: Chris Davis hit his 30th home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning. Since lifting himself out of a deep offensive slump, he has hit six home runs in his last seven games and has risen to sixth in the AL homer rankings. This is Davis's fourth 30-plus homer season in five years.
Trumbo homer streak ends: Much was made Monday night of the fact that Trumbo's last seven hits – dating back to Aug. 11 – had been home runs. Trumbo rectified that with an RBI single in the first inning and added another hard-hit single in the Orioles' three-run third.