Today’s attendance: 25,130
The Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Rays with a 3-2, 14-inning victory. They have sole possession of first place in the American League East, with the Yankees playing the Red Sox later tonight. The Rays fall four games back in the division.
The Orioles can do no worse than .500, ending their streak of consecutive losing seasons at 14. Just don’t listen for the sound of champagne corks popping in the home clubhouse.
“I don’t think our guys take anything for granted,” said manager Buck Showalter. “There’s a bigger goal in mind and that wasn’t the goal from Day One this spring. Really, Day One of the offseason. It’s watching other teams for years and saying, ‘We want to do what they’re doing.’ We’d like to get a chair at the dance, you know?”
“I definitely think it’s something to be proud of,” said Chris Davis. “We’ve played well so far this year and put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. But we’re not looking back right now, we’re looking forward, one game at a time, and try to pile up the wins.”
The Orioles’ latest walk-off win came on Manny Machado’s single into left field, on a ball that barely eluded diving left fielder Matt Joyce.
“I thought it had a chance to get down,” Showalter said. “They’re real deep there with a guy on first, and when he got to second, they shortened up there a little bit. Their outfield is so good defensively, you expect them to catch everything. We were fortunate it found some grass.”
Machado had been 0-for-5 with six runners stranded before again playing the role of hero.
“It feels great,” he said. “It feels even better that we’re winning and we having great success. The thing about this game is we worry about the game tomorrow. We’ve got a big series coming up. Stay focused on what comes next.
“I’m having a blast. This team is great to be around. It’s a great group of guys. We’re all excited. We’re all having one goal, which is make the playoffs.”
Machado hasn’t been around long, but he still knows how much of a burden 14 straight losing seasons had become to the Orioles and their fans. He was happy to be around when it finally ended.
“It’s great, you know?” he said. “This is what we’ve been working for. This what the team has been working for. All the old veterans, Jones, Markakis and Wieters have been working for, trying to change this team around, and this organization. We’re just excited to be in the win column.”
The Orioles improved to 13-2 in extra-inning games, with 13 straight wins.
“We have a great bond together. We have a great bond,” Machado said. “The thing as a team is we do the best we can do. The biggest thing is we’re playing as a team, and we’re staying focused.”
“For us to have as many extra-inning wins as we do, it speaks a lot to the character of this team, but also the talent on this team,” Davis said. “We expect to win every night we go out. I think if you’re not expecting to win, you shouldn’t go out and play the game. We’ve been fortunate lately to have some things go our way, but we’re playing really good baseball.”
Said Showalter: “I was thinking in the dugout, if we’re so good at it, why didn’t we do it in the 10th inning?
“I walked up the runway and saw Wei-Yin (Chen) and said, ‘Did you pitch today?’”
Yes, he did. Chen allowed two runs and eight hits over 7 1/3 innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts.
“Great job by the pitchers today,” Showalter said. “Wei-Yin was outstanding. He was sharp. We know the game meant a lot to them today. He was impressive as anybody. We got a lot of big outs out of our bullpen, though.”
The Orioles improved to 64-0 when leading after the seventh inning.
“It’s just one of those things we don’t really think about in the long term,” said Jim Johnson. “We just think about executing our pitches, keep it simple, focus on the guy at the plate and get the out. As long as we do our job, focus on our job and not worry about the extra stuff, then we give our offense a chance to come through for us. We’ve been doing it a lot.
“Good flight now. It makes that West Coast trip a little easier when you win. Obviously, we have a big task to handle in Oakland. They’re playing as well as anybody right now. You can enjoy it for a little bit, the five hours you’re on the flight, but that’s about it.”
Jason Hammel will be on that flight, eager to get back in the rotation.
A good-news final and good news on Hammel’s MRI.
“It’s probably the best situation we could have,” Hammel said. “No new damage. The doctor called it a ‘hot spot.’ It probably just needs to calm down. Strengthening around the knee is the only thing that we can really do right now. As a plan for right now, it’s going to be rest and strengthening the knee, so timetable (is unknown).
“I was pumped to hear it. I thought something else was going on just by the way it felt, and even from the pain that I felt yesterday and the improvement into today was significant. It’s making strides.
“I want to get back out there as soon as I can, but obviously if I can’t use my leg, I can’t pitch. But I’m going on the trip with the team because I want to stay with the treatment and stay on top of it. If I can get back at any point at any point this season, I’m going to.”
For now, Hammel will rest for an undetermined amount of days. One or two, at least.
Hammel said his knee was “really angry” yesterday.
“That’s what had me so down,” he said. “It didn’t feel good at all yesterday. Then today, it’s significant improvement. The results and then how it feels is definitely a step in the right direction. As soon as I can drive off my leg, I’ll be ready.”