It happened fast for the Orioles. In a stunning three-home-run eighth inning, their dormant offense came to life big-time tonight and they rallied to beat the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals 5-3. They did it against their top late-inning relievers who played key roles in their 2019 championship run.
All it took was two pinch-hit homers and an “Earl” - a three-run homer that former skipper Earl Weaver loved.
The late comeback puts the Orioles back at the .500 mark at 7-7 (they are 4-1 on the road) and in position to sweep this series against Stephen Strasburg on Sunday afternoon.
The Orioles had just two singles and were down 3-0 through seven innings against Nats right-handed starter Austin Voth and two relievers. But the Nats turned to struggling lefty Sean Doolittle, whose ERA has been up and whose velocity has been down, to start the eighth.
Pat Valaika pinch-hit for Chance Sisco and homered on a 1-1 splitter to left. It was his sixth career pinch-hit home run. Pedro Severino then pinch hit for Dwight Smith Jr. and he crushed a high fastball at 89 mph. It went 412 feet to left and the O’s had life, down just 3-2.
According to STATS, it’s the third time the Orioles have hit back-to-back pinch-hit home runs. Wayne Gross and Larry Sheets did it on Aug. 12, 1985 versus the Indians and Vic Roznovsky and Boog Powell on Aug. 26, 1966 against the Red Sox.
After Doolittle struck out Chris Davis, closer Daniel Hudson came on trying to record a five-out save.
He wouldn’t get it.
Austin Hays’ plate appearance proved pivotal when he battled Hudson for an 11-pitch walk. When Hanser Alberto lined a single to center the O’s put two on for right fielder Anthony Santander. He got a first-pitch fastball at 97 mph and drove it to left. It carried out down the line for a huge three-run homer and the Orioles were ahead 5-3. It was No. 3 for Santander and a three-homer inning for the Orioles.
O’s starter Thomas Eshelman allowed two runs over four innings on 57 pitches and the Baltimore bullpen did a solid job behind him. Tanner Scott would get two key strikeouts. One to pitch out of a jam in the fifth and one of Juan Soto in the sixth. But his throwing error did lead to a run as the Nats moved ahead 3-0.
Right-hander Cole Sulser walked two in the eighth to provide the Nats a big chance. He then turned them away with a big strikeout of Eric Thames on changeups to end the threat. Miguel Castro fanned two in the ninth to record his seventh career save.
The O’s ‘pen tonight fanned nine over five innings.
The O’s blasts in the eighth had indeed produced a big comeback victory.