Launch a fastball and a burden is lifted. For however long it lasts.
The sigh of relief from Davis could have moved the flags in center field. He homered for the first time since May 9 to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning and his sacrifice fly in the ninth allowed the Orioles to reclaim the lead during a six-run rally. He should have been able to pen the story based on his triumphant return to the lineup, but there were too many rewrites.
Instead of winning in regulation and allowing Davis to bask in the glory, the Orioles were forced into extra innings after the Braves scored four runs off Zach Britton in the bottom of the ninth. Way to flip the script, fellas.
Manny Machado hit a two-run homer off Peter Moylan in the 15th inning while down 0-2 in the count, and the Orioles somehow managed to leave SunTrust Park with a 10-7 win over the Braves.
Fifteen consecutive Orioles were retired before Moylan drilled Craig Gentry in the ribs leading off the 15th. Machado yanked a slider into the left field seats, pausing to watch the ball’s flight before beginning his trot, and the Orioles improved to 22-52 overall and 11-29 on the road.
The Orioles actually led 1-0 heading to the seventh inning. All the craziness that ensued left them with their third win in five games.
Miguel Castro worked three scoreless and hitless innings, and Wright. stranded a runner on third base in the 14th, with rookie Steve Wilkerson charging Dansby Swanson’s slow roller and throwing him out.
The teams combined for 10 runs in the ninth. Britton loaded the bases with no outs on a single, double and hit batter before a run-scoring single by Ozzie Albers and two-run single by Freddie Freeman. Nick Markakis’ double tied the game, but Freeman was thrown out at the plate to prevent a walk-off.
Darren O’Day got the last two outs - issuing an intentional walk to former teammate Ryan Flaherty in between - to carry the game into the 10th. He tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Danny Valencia delivered a run-scoring single and Jonathan Schoop an automatic double off Dan Winkler in the top of the ninth. Facing left-hander Sam Freeman, Davis lined to left field and pinch-runner Jace Peterson raced home to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
They weren’t done. Caleb Joseph followed with an RBI double and he scored on Wilkerson’s first major league hit, a single to right field. Wilkerson scored on Gentry’s single and the Orioles appeared to have seized control. But nothing comes easily in 2018. There must be drama and trauma.
Charlie Culberson lined a two-out, two-run double off Brad Brach in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Brach replaced Scott with the bases loaded and one out.
Scott, thrust into duty that Richard Bleier used to handle before lat surgery, got into trouble with a one-out walk to Albies and Freeman’s double on a liner that barely eluded Valencia’s glove. Markakis was walked intentionally, Brach struck out Tyler Flowers and Culberson came through in the clutch.
He wouldn’t be the last. Players marked heroes one inning were virtually forgotten the next. Main characters became footnotes.
Machado walked to open the 10th, stole second base and took third on a passed ball with one out, but the Orioles didn’t score. O’Day stranded a runner in the bottom half.
There were so many double-switches and substitutions, backup catcher Austin Wynns replaced Jones in the second spot in the order and struck out in the 12th. The Orioles ran out of position players. Andrew Cashner hung near the bat rack, was allowed to pinch-hit for Castro in the 14th and lined to short.
Gentry made two catches in center field with his back against the fence as the Braves kept threatening to send everyone home. And Gentry started the game in left.
Deemed ready to get back into the lineup, Davis didn’t swing at the first nine pitches thrown by left-hander Sean Newcomb, drawing a walk in the second inning and getting ahead 3-1 in the count in the fifth.
Newcomb’s four-seamer traveled an estimated 398 feet to left field with an exit velocity of 106 mph, according to Statcast. Reclaiming his opposite-field swing was just one of the drills implemented while Davis sat out the past eight games. Some mechanical tweaks and a mental break rolled into one benching.
Alex Cobb appreciated any support he could get in a game that started 11 minutes late following an afternoon storm. He cruised through Cobb County until the seventh inning, allowing only two hits and protecting a 1-0 lead.
Swanson tripled with two outs in the seventh and scored on Johan Camargo’s double on Cobb’s 103rd pitch to tie the game. Cobb allowed one run and four hits in seven innings and threw a season-high 107 pitches.
Making only his second career start against the Braves, Cobb retired the first nine batters before Ender Inciarte and Albies singled in the fourth inning. The Braves put two runners in scoring position with one out after Schoop’s diving stop and throw to rob Freeman, but Davis caught two pop ups in foul territory and Cobb escaped the jam.
The first inning was a blur, with Cobb throwing only five pitches to retire the side in order. He struck out the side in the third, relying more on his fastball.
Davis drew his walk with two outs in the second after taking a curveball for a strike, checking his swing on a curve in the dirt and laying off three consecutive four-seam fastballs - the last two missing outside.
Newcomb fell behind 3-0 to Davis in the fifth, got a called strike and tried a fifth consecutive four-seamer. Flowers must have forgotten his other fingers in the dugout.
Davis’ stroll to the bench after hitting the home run was stalled by Joseph, who slipped an arm around his waist. Teammates applauded as they waited for him.
A slow roller to the right side, run down by Newcomb, ended the seventh inning. Davis worked the count to 2-2 before topping a curveball. He followed his sacrifice fly in the ninth by flying to shallow center field leading off the 11th and striking out in the 14th. He was walked intentionally with two outs in the 15th, forcing Wright to bat.
Take it as a compliment, Chris, and ignore the circumstances.
Newcomb retired nine of 10 batters following Machado’s leadoff single in the fourth, with Davis the only Oriole to reach. Newcomb rationed the Orioles to one run over seven innings and lowered his ERA to 2.59.
The back-to-back singles by Inciarte and Albies were the only hits off Cobb until Swanson’s triple.
Cobb produced the rotation’s 34th quality start. Seems like the team should have more wins.
Trey Mancini’s neck must be feeling better. He pinch-hit for Cobb in the eighth, and though he struck out, his involvement in the game had to be deemed a positive.
Pain would come in other forms throughout the night, as the Orioles used 21 players and were subjected to their longest game since going 18 innings on Sept. 20, 2013 at Tropicana Field, but they finally headed back to their hotel feeling pretty good.
Manager Buck Showalter on team grinding: “I get asked a lot about how’s the tenor and the mood in the clubhouse. Guys, they don’t like losing. That’s a good example of what my answer is. Guys are grinding, working and supporting each other. And I wish we could have done it in nine.
“Alex was as good as he’s been all year. That’s a really good club over there. It presents a lot of challenges to defend and Alex was really sharp. He really probably should have had seven shutout innings. That was fun for him. I almost took him out after the sixth just to get him out there positive, but he was pitching so well. You go through that order three times, you’re pitching pretty well. The changeup was good for him tonight.”
Showalter on any differences in Davis: “Like I said, there are subtle things. The sac fly, fought something off, and played a really good defense at first base. He was real excited about playing today and his teammates were for him. Just because he hit a home run, that’s kind of the least of it for me. It was just having him back and just really getting a chance to be back engaged in the competition.”
Showalter on how to explain quiet game getting crazy: “Well, the launch angles ... No, that’s baseball. That’s why you don’t play it on a computer and it’s not purely analytical. That’s why people come, because things happen that aren’t supposed to happen on paper. And there’s three outs in an inning and everybody gets their turn. You can’t hand the ball to your best shooter or your best running back. You have to wait your turn in the batting order. It’s such a team game and there’s just so much ...
“You’re talking about a link in the chain, but in a 15-inning game, there are so many links in the chain. Sleep fast and come over here tomorrow. We’ve got to make some adjustments, see if we need a pitcher and see if we can make our way back to the hotel across the street.”
Showalter on Britton: “Just elevated some balls. He only threw, what, 16 or 17 pitches? But we knew he was going to have a hiccup along the way coming back and I’m glad he got it out of there and we ended up winning.”