It seems like the Orioles have had to come up with a big play or big hit in late innings to win a lot of recent games. Tonight, they came up with some big hits early, and then had to hold off the Nationals late in the game.
Adam Jones and Nick Markakis homered again - this time each hit two-run shots - as the Orioles beat the Nats 6-5 tonight in front of 42,331 at Nats Park to take the first two games of this series.
Ryan Zimmerman homered off Jim Johnson with two outs in the last of the ninth to pull Washington within a run, but Johnson struck out Adam LaRoche to end the game and give the O's the tense victory.
With the win, the Orioles improve to 27-14 on the year to go 13 games over the .500 mark for the first time since June 22, 2005. The Orioles also stay two games ahead of Tampa Bay, who also won today, in the American League's Eastern Division.
The Orioles now have a five-game win streak to match their season high.
The Birds' bats battered Nats starter Ross Detwiler early tonight. Robert Andino's two-run single with two outs in the second gave the O's a 2-0 lead and ended Andino's 11-game RBI drought.
An inning later, Jones blasted a two-run shot to left. It was his 14th of the year to make it 4-0. Jones has now hit four homers over his last five games, six in the past 11 and eight homers over his last 15 games. He has driven in at least one run in six consecutive games and has 17 RBIs over his last 15 games.
Markakis' second homer in two nights, another two-run shot, made it 6-0 in the fifth. Markakis has five homers and 11 RBIs over his last 12 games.
After sailing through the first four innings on one hit, O's starter Jason Hammel gave up a run in the fifth and three in the sixth as Washington rallied.
Hammel did get the win, improving to 5-1 with an ERA of 3.12. He gave up six hits and four runs over 5 1/3 innings, and his ERA has jumped up from 2.09 over his past two starts. Tonight ended the O's run of four consecutive quality starts.
Once again the Orioles' bullpen got some big outs. Pedro Strop stranded two runners on base in the eighth, and Johnson retired the Nats in the ninth to close out the win.
Johnson is now 15-for-15 in save chances this year and has recorded 23 straight saves dating to last August 14.
The Orioles improved to 15-5 on the road with nine wins in a row. They are now 16-4 in games decided by two runs or less. The Orioles are 21-17 against the Nats since the franchise moved to Washington for the 2006 season.
In the series finale Sunday afternoon, Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45 ERA) pitches for the Orioles against Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 2.25 ERA) at 1:35 p.m.