DENVER — Having come up on the wrong side of so many games in which they built early leads and watched them evaporate, the Orioles tried a new approach Saturday at Coors Field in an effort to snap their seven-game losing streak.
They kept scoring.
A two-run seventh inning featuring run-scoring singles by Stevie Wilkerson and Dwight Smith Jr. could have been so much more, but was still enough to create the final 9-6 margin as the Orioles out-slugged the Colorado Rockies and reliever Josh Lucas pitched three shutout innings for his first career save before an announced crowd of 41,239 Saturday at Coors Field.
“It feels good to hold onto a lead,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
The victory was the first for the Orioles (16-36) since May 17, ending a seven-game skid that included some of their most frustrating setbacks.
“We've been grinding,” said Renato Núñez, who had three hits including a home run. “We've been playing hard. We played hard today again, and we got the ‘W’.”
Combining the setting in Denver and the pitching staffs involved, it should be no surprise that the runs came early and often. The Orioles pulled ahead in the first with run-scoring singles by Núñez and Pedro Severino, only for the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado to knock in a run with a double in the home half.
Núñez homered in the third to mark his fourth straight game with a home run, but Arenado matched it with a three-run home run to give Colorado a brief lead.
Hanser Alberto's run-scoring single and a three-run home run by Jonathan Villar gave the Orioles some cushion in the fourth, meaning another run-scoring hit for Arenado only made the score 7-5.
With starter Andrew Cashner (5-2) too taxed for a sixth inning, Miguel Castro was throwing 100-mph fastballs against his former club in the sixth inning, but had one hit out for a solo home run by Chris Iannetta to make it a one-run game.
It was happening again.
And even as they were scoring, for once, and extending that lead in the seventh, it still felt as if the losing would continue. With one run already in, Richie Martin grounded into a force at home. With the second run already in, Stevie Wilkerson rounded third hard on Smith's single that rolled into short-center field, but shortstop Trevor Story went and got it and was able to get the ball home, forcing Wilkerson back to third. He was out.
But relief pitcher Josh Lucas, the most recent addition to an Orioles bullpen that has struggled badly this week, gave them a second three-inning relief outing in five days to earn his first major league career save.
“We needed Castro and Lucas to give us some innings, and honestly, Castro was going to go back out, too, but we had a rally going,” Hyde said. “D-Smith with a big RBI hit to extend the lead, so somehow, we pieced it together.”
Richard Bleier was warming behind Lucas in the ninth as the Orioles’ last option should things have gone badly, but Lucas instead became the sixth Orioles pitcher to record a save this season, joining Mychal Givens, Paul Fry, Castro, Bleier, and Mike Wright.
“It feels good to get a first save,” Lucas said. “I'm just trying to pound the zone like always, trying to get the guys a rest. They've been taxed heavily this last week, so just trying to eat up some innings, throw strikes.”