The Orioles are nine games above .500 again. They improved to 17-11 in two-run games with today's 5-3 victory over the Royals. They're also 47-0 when leading after the seventh inning and 49-1 when leading after the eighth.
Credit the bullpen with four scoreless and hitless innings, beginning with Luis Ayala and ending with closer Jim Johnson.
Manager Buck Showalter also used Troy Patton and Pedro Strop to piece together the last four innings.
"Well, I think because we have an off-day tomorrow," Showalter said. "We've had a couple games where we had to use a lot of people, but we felt at the time we could keep it close and we could match up out of the bullpen the last four innings. J.J. was going to pitch today regardless, and I thought Pedro, Patton, of course, Looey...
"Tommy (Hunter) bent but didn't break. It wasn't one of his sharper outings, but he gave us a chance to win, didn't let it get away from him. And Mark (Reynolds) obviously had a big hit."
Reynolds singled to break a 3-3 tie in the sixth and made three fantastic plays at first base, including a diving stop along the line with two runners in scoring position, and a bare-handed catch of Strop's throw, which came at him while the reliever had his back turned.
"Mark made a big contribution to us," Showalter said. "He made three plays. He made a pick-up on J.J. up the middle. But I tell you, the toughest play today was the throw from Strop. Mark in the dugout said, 'You knew it was coming from somewhere. You just didn't know if it was coming between the legs, over the back.' That's a challenging play.
"Mark had a big hit for us today. Almost drove in another run. And a big walk, too."
Reynolds seems a lot more comfortable at first. He's certainly been more reliable.
"Mark, he doesn't want to let his team down," Showalter said. "He's made a lot of contributions this year, especially going over to first base and kind of settling that down defensively for us. We all know what he's capable of offensively. If I know Mark, he'll continue to be ready when called on.
"I still think at some point he's going to make somebody pay. He's done some good things for us offensively. Just not as consistently as he would like to."
Nate McLouth made a diving catch in center field that will be shown over and over on SportsCenter, and he went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
"I think he's in a comfortable spot," Showalter said. "He's had a lot of little nagging things along the way and a lot of things changing. One comfort level is having a guy like John Russell, who he had his best year he's ever had there (in Pittsburgh). John was very adamant about that he could make a contribution to us. That was another benefit of talking to people in the organization, because you can always find some real tight information on anybody if you're willing to listen. I think that's helped Nate some, too.
"Plus, he's a good player. We look out there in the last inning, we've got three guys who have won a Gold Glove in the outfield."
That included Adam Jones, who was inserted into center field after making his first career start as the designated hitter.
"We took the pitcher out of the game and lost the DH in that last inning, but we had a bench and we had some bullpen pieces that I thought we could play a National League game the rest of the way if they tied it up," Showalter said. "And because of the depth of our bullpen, that's another reason why I felt comfortable putting Jonesy out there in the outfield."
Manny Machado hit his third home run after totaling 11 at Double-A Bowie.
"The last couple weeks there, he had it going pretty good," Showalter said. "There are so many things up here. The lights are better, the pitchers are around the plate a little bit more, the conditions. He's put some good swings on some good pitches and they've carried over the fence. I'd put myself in his shoes, I'm sure he's having a blast. But he doesn't want to do anything to upset the apple cart toward the other team. He's been very respectful of the competition, and that's something that we've tried to do all year.
"The power stuff, it's something that we all think potentially will be there, but if it's not, he can impact our team defensively."