It was “Turn Back the Clock Day” at T-Mobile Field and the Seattle Mariners were commemorating the arrival of Major League Baseball in the Pacific Northwest by donning replicas of the uniforms worn by the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969.
Of course, the Orioles had to do their part by wearing replica uniforms from the same year, which meant they entered Saturday’s game mired in a 10-game losing streak dressed like the team that won the most regular-season games in franchise history.
So, it was only fair that the Mariners played like the 98-loss Pilots and the Orioles played like the 109-win team that won the American League pennant, as Baltimore snapped its season-long losing streak with an 8-4 victory.
Appropriately, the game turned on a three-run home run by Jonathan Villar in the fourth inning, which would have made Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver smile. The Orioles (22-55) played terrific defense and solid fundamental baseball to secure their first victory since they beat the Toronto Blue Jays on June 11 at Camden Yards.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough skid,’’ starting pitcher Andrew Cashner said. “It’s worn on all of us, the coaches and players. We’ve done some things right, we’ve done some things wrong. We just haven’t been able to kind of get that win.”
Maybe there was something magical about the throwback uniforms. Several Orioles players had one of the jerseys made up with Jim Palmer’s name and number on it and — in a classy gesture — delivered it to him in the broadcast booth before the game.
“Maybe we’ll wear them again tomorrow,’’ manager Brandon Hyde joked. “Whatever uniform allows us to win, I’ll put it on.”.
Cashner went out and pitched six strong innings against the Mariners (34-47), who scored 10 runs Friday and held off a late Orioles rally to guarantee themselves at least a split of the four-game series.
Cashner (7-3) gave up two runs on five hits and walked just one on the way to his team-leading seventh victory. He allowed an RBI double to Mariners designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach in the first inning and the other run in the sixth after right fielder Domingo Santana led off the inning with a long double.
“Cash was great,’’ Hyde said. “He didn’t have his best stuff and gave up a run early and was able to go deep in the game for us and allow us to navigate through our bullpen.”
The Orioles didn’t get a hit off Mariners starter Tommy Milone (1-2) through the first three innings, but broke through with a pair of one-out hits in the fourth before Villar launched a home run into the bullpen area behind left field.
It was Villar’s ninth home run of the season and his first multi-RBI performance since he hit a three-run homer off Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland on May 25.
Hyde was lamenting Friday night how the Orioles jumped ahead in the first inning in each of the first two games of the series but were unable to tack on runs to maintain those leads.
That was not a problem Saturday. The Orioles added two more runs in the sixth on a two-run homer by Anthony Santander and another in the seventh with some un-Weaver-like small ball.
Richie Martin led off that inning with a single and stole second. Hanser Alberto sacrificed him to third and Pedro Severino brought home the Orioles’ sixth run with a sacrifice fly.
“You’ve got to play the small game sometimes,” Alberto said. “Whatever the game tells you to do, you have to do.”
The late-inning hitting has been contagious the past two games and the Orioles kept the heat on in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs before Alberto singled home Villar and Keon Broxton to extend the lead to six runs.
The second big offensive effort in a row put Cashner in fairly comfortable position to win, but he pointed to the string of terrific defensive plays made behind him, particularly by center fielder Keon Broxton and shortstop Richie Martin.
“I thought the biggest thing today was our defense,’’ Cashner said. “Our defense came up big today.”
Jimmy Yacabonis came on in the seventh and struck out all three batters he faced. Rookie Josh Rogers followed him to the mound and gave up a run in the eighth on a long homer by Santana, but it was forgivable since nobody’s getting that guy out these days.
“That seventh inning was huge,’’ Hyde said. “Put up a zero there and if the game stayed close, it would have been a [Mychal] Givens-[Richard] Bleier type deal, but it allowed Bleier to get a day off. It was good to see.”
Givens allowed one run in the ninth, but the Orioles finally could shake hands on the field for the first time in almost two weeks.
Several players expressed relief that the losing streak was over, but Hyde said he’s still more focused on the process than the outcomes.
“We want to win and it feels way better to win,’’ he said, “but I was more happy with how we played. That’s my thing. I just want us to play the game well. I want us to compete and I want us to not walk guys. And I want us to grind out at-bats and if we do those things, we give ourselves a chance and I thought we did that today and I’m really happy with that.”