The Orioles won their 70th game tonight, one more than the entire 2011 season. They also improved to 45-18 in games decided by two runs or fewer, and tied their season high by moving 13 games above .500.
Buck Showalter’s record improved to 173-173 since he took over as manager on Aug. 3, 2010.
Tonight provided another example of how different players seem to step up and produce in the clutch, a key to any playoff run. Lew Ford hits his first major league home run in five years, and Nate McLouth - released by the Pirates earlier this season - delivers a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
“It’s a good example,” Showalter said. “Lew looked really good in his first at-bat, a real testament to him and Jimmy (Presley) and the work they put in to stay ready. I know it’s been a little dry spell, but we kept challenging. I knew we were going to see at least three left-handers here and beyond. Him and Robert (Andino) both staying ready.
“He had a lot of good swings tonight. Our guys did a good job of making (Francisco) Liriano work and get the ball up, although we weren’t able to take advantage of a lot of situations that we created.
“(McLouth) is just in a good place. I thought our people in Norfolk did a great job with him, not only working with him, but the mental part. This guy was one of the better center fielders in the game at one time and he’s worked very hard to get back to that level. And still a young man. Nate’s a serious guy about his trade and I think having John Russell here, managing him (in Pittsburgh) when he had his best year ever, really gives him a comfort. I think that’s big with players, when they know they have a particular night they don’t do well and there’s somebody there reminding everybody of what a good player they are capable of being.
“He’s been in a good place for a while now. And it’s obviously a tribute to Nate for never giving in. He’s a professional and he plays on both sides of the ball.”
The Orioles have won 13 straight one-run games to set a franchise record.
“Those are the games that the White Sox are winning, too,” Showalter said. “They’re playing as well as any team in baseball and you can see why. They’ve got a lot of things working in their favor and it’s a real tribute to Wei-Yin (Chen).
“They’re in a really good place and engaged mentally, them and our fans. And that’s always a good thing. It’s that time of year where it’s kind of a snowball time of year, where if you get something good going, it can sustain itself if you have good pitching. And on the flip side of that, things can get away from you, too. There’s a lot of mental challenges this time of year, because your body is telling you ‘no.’ You’ve got to stay strong mentally.”
The Orioles shrugged off their failings with the bases loaded and the loss of a 2-1 lead, and ended up on top again.
“This is as good of a club as I’ve ever had about staying in the moment,” Showalter said. “That’s a challenge when you’re around so many things that aren’t really realistic to stay together and challenge the things that really important.
“They move on. They don’t get involved in who says this. They lean on each other and realize how hard the game is to play. I think they realize, we as a staff and everything, it’s a hard game to play. You’re going to have ups and downs.”
Chen allowed two runs, but only one earned, over six innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts.
“Wei-Yin, you can tell he was strong tonight from the extra rest,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, he’s in a good spot the rest of the year to take the ball for us.”