Baltimore Orioles

Orioles rally in ninth to sweep Nationals with 5-4 walk-off victory

The Orioles had their ace on the mound and were trending toward a sweep when one big swing from the Washington Nationals reversed the score. Baltimore never got a big swing of its own, but in the bottom of the ninth, several little ones added up.

After hitting his first career home run earlier in the game, Ryan McKenna raced home from third to score on pinch-hitter Ramón Urías’ grounder to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory Sunday for a three-game sweep over their regional rival. An inning earlier, they had gotten their first two men on but stranded the tying run at third. A team effort in the ninth ensured they did not miss the next opportunity.


Facing Washington closer Brad Hand in the ninth, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch. With Franco having below-average speed and representing the tying run, manager Brandon Hyde considered using starting pitcher Spenser Watkins as a pinch-runner, but stuck with Franco, who then raced to third when McKenna singled.

After pinch-hitter Austin Hays walked, Pat Valaika’s sacrifice fly scored Franco to tie the game and moved McKenna up to third before Urías’ grounder to third baseman Carter Kieboom gave McKenna just enough time to beat the throw to score. The ballpark broke into a frenzy, even as umpires reviewed the final play, eventually determining McKenna was indeed safe at home.


It was the first time the Orioles (34-64) won this season when trailing after eight innings, improving to 1-51.

“We haven’t done that very much in the last few years,” Hyde said. “It’s fun to watch our guys celebrate right now.”

With the trade deadline less than a week away, getting swept by the American League’s worst team likely propelled the Nationals (45-52) into being sellers. It was the first time the Orioles swept them in a three-game series in Baltimore since 2010.

“I think our team has been very resilient,” McKenna said. “Props to everybody coming together collectively and picking each other up. We know we’re talented, we can go out there and win ballgames. The Nationals are a great team. We’ve just proved ourselves and went out and played well and won three in a row.”

The Orioles had carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth behind a trio of solo shots from Trey Mancini, Franco and McKenna, with left-hander John Means, making his second start off a six-week stint on the injured list, cruising into the frame. After allowing the first three Nationals to reach Sunday, Means retired 14 of the next 15 and needed only 49 pitches through five innings.

But he opened the sixth by hitting Washington leadoff man Alcides Escobar for a second time, then allowed a hard-hit single by Trea Turner; the ball was right to Valaika at shortstop but buzzed past him. Means retired the next two batters before Ryan Zimmerman sent an elevated fastball out to center field. It was the first time this season Means allowed a home run with multiple runners on base.

Means said he struggled pitching inside with his fastball Sunday, an offering that helped make him one of baseball’s top starters through the season’s early months. But Sunday marked the first time since Means no-hit the Seattle Mariners on May 5 that the Orioles won with him starting. He has a 4.91 ERA across those seven starts.

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“The team really showed up for me,” Means said. “We played good defense. Had great at-bats honestly the whole game. Just for the team to pick me up after not doing as well as I’d hope, it’s just huge.”


Means recorded the first two outs of the seventh before a double from Escobar. From there, the Orioles’ bullpen avoided calamity. Paul Fry struck out Turner to end the seventh and leave Escobar at second, then he and César Valdez loaded the bases in the eighth, though Valdez kept them that way. After Valdez put two runners on in the ninth, Cole Sulser stranded them to set up Baltimore’s rally in the ninth.

The Orioles' Ryan McKenna, third from left, reacts with Trey Mancini (16) and Cedric Mullins after he scored the game-winning run on a walk-off fielders choice by Ramón Urías in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals in Baltimore on Sunday.

Big Mac

When Means was activated this week, McKenna was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. But when outfielder Anthony Santander was put on the COVID-19 injured list the next day, he was brought right back.

McKenna, the Orioles’ No. 25 prospect according to Baseball America, took advantage of the opportunity Sunday. He came in a long way from left field to make a diving catch on a shallow popup in the second, then hit Paolo Espino’s full-count fastball out to center in the fourth for his first major league home run.

Mancini’s second first-inning home run in as many games traveled to the concourse in left; at a projected 455 feet, it was the Orioles’ longest home run in more than two years, per Statcast. An inning later, Franco hit his first home run in more than a month.

The Orioles had a potential scoring opportunity taken from them in the third, when Cedric Mullins led off with a single and tried to steal second base. He beat the throw rather easily and touched second before being tagged, but umpire Joe West ruled him out, saying he came off the bag during his headfirst slide. A replay review upheld the call, just as it did McKenna’s winning score.

“It was just a fun day for me, to be a part of the win,” McKenna said.

Around the horn

  • Right-handers Spenser Watkins and Jorge López will start in the Orioles’ two-game series with the Miami Marlins. Left-hander Alexander Wells will start during the following series in Detroit, Hyde said, going more than a week between starts because of off-days.
  • Shortstop Freddy Galvis, who has been out a month with a right quadriceps strain, is on track to return in the beginning of August after a handful of rehab games, Hyde said.
  • Ravens coach John Harbaugh threw out the ceremonial first “pitch,” tossing a football to Hyde. He then visited with Cal Ripken Jr. and came out with Hyde to meet the umpires and exchange lineups.
Orioles' Trey Mancini, right, celebrates his home run with third base coach Tony Mansolino (36) in the first inning against the Washington Nationals in Baltimore on Sunday.