WASHINGTON - Another extra-inning game, another extra-inning win. And on the road, of course.
The Orioles defeated the Nationals 2-1 in 11 innings. They’re 6-2 in extras, with all six wins coming in succession away from Camden Yards. They’re also in first place in the American League East, two games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.
How does manager Buck Showalter explain all those road wins?
“Pitching in general,” he replied. “You’d like to do some things and not have that happen. I think we’ve played more innings than anybody in baseball. That doesn’t come as any shock to anybody. Hopefully, it bodes well mentally when you get in those situations that you’ve been there and handled it well because, especially on the road, there’s such a finality to that bottom of the inning. But the key is our guys are playing pretty loose through that. It’s a loose clubhouse. They have a lot of confidence in close ballgames.”
Jake Arrieta didn’t get the win, but he was outstanding with only one run allowed and nine strikeouts in seven innings.
“Jake was solid,” Showalter said. “He had command of the fastball and that opens up a lot of things for him. He’s a difference-maker tonight, regardless of what happened after the fact. You’ve got to have that type of outing with the type of stuff Edwin (Jackson) was carrying tonight.”
Asked whether Arrieta was more relaxed tonight, which allowed him to be more effective, Showalter replied, “You know what relaxes you? When you’ve got real good stuff and you’ve got command of it. That relaxes a lot of things. And the confidence level’s there. It’s like, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?
“He tweaked a little something before this start and it seemed to help some, so we’ll see if he can maintain it and stay in a peak for a long time.”
Nick Markakis broke a 1-1 tie in the 11th inning with his seventh home run after falling behind 0-2 in the count.
“He spit on a ball just off the plate that could have allowed him to expand the zone there,” Showalter said.
Kevin Gregg picked up his second win in three games with a scoreless 10th.
“There’s nobody more professional in our clubhouse than Kevin Gregg,” Showalter said. “There’s nobody more competitive. And I don’t think I have to tell you all that. You don’t do what he’s done for a long period of time without having some real moxie about handling tough times and not getting caught up in the good times. I think everybody in the clubhouse respects Kevin so much, and to see him get some return for his approach to competition, I think, means a lot to everybody.”
The bullpen didn’t permit a run in four innings.
“It’s obviously real good, but at some point we’ve got to keep everybody pitching well if we’re going to continue to play these extra inning games and these doubleheaders and whatever, because you can’t just depend on one or two guys,” Showalter said.
“I’m going to keep that bullpen healthy regardless. I could have very easily run J.J. (Jim Johnson) out there again tonight. I saw him stretching down there. But you just can’t do it.”