A walk-off win produces a sweep against the Nationals

Down 4-3 heading to the last of the ninth today and 0-51 this year when trailing after eight innings, the Orioles scored two runs in the ninth today to stun the Washington Nationals 5-4 and complete a three-game sweep at Camden Yards.

Nats closer Brad Hand hit Maikel Franco on an 0-2 pitch to start the rally. Then Ryan McKenna singled, sending Franco to third base, and pinch-hitter Austin Hays walked to load the bases.

A Pat Valaika sac fly to right scored the tie run and McKenna tagged, going from second to third on the play. Then pinch-hitter Ramón Urías hit one to third base and McKenna’s dive beat Carter Kieboom’s throw to the plate.

The Orioles improved to 34-64 overall and to 6-3 since the All-Star break with their third walk-off win of the season.

Means-Delivers-Black-Home-Sidebar.jpgEarlier, lefty John Means had to work hard to get through the first inning but then settled in and had a mostly good outing after that. One pitch marred that day however.

Leading 3-1 with two on and two outs in the top of the sixth, Means allowed a three-run homer to Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman. That put the Nationals ahead 4-3 as Zimmerman hit No. 11 for this season and No. 281 for his career.

But the Orioles rallied to avoid the one-run loss.

Zimmerman blasted a high fastball 402-feet to center to give Washington its first lead in this series since the fourth inning Friday night. The inning began with a hit-by-pitch and single. Means got the next two outs to almost wriggle out of that jam. But not quite.

It is hard to say he struggled in the first inning - giving up just one hit, and a single at that - but he did have to contend with a bases-loaded, no-outs jam. Means gave up one run that inning and then started to roll for quite a while today.

He was looking very much like the Means that got off to such a great start this year that included pitching a no-hitter May 5 at Seattle.

Today Means allowed five hits and four runs over 6 2/3 innings with one walk and two strikeouts on 87 pitches. This was the fourth outing of six innings or more by an O’s starter in nine games since the All-Star break. Before the break, they got just three such outings in their last 40 games.

Means’ day started hit-by-pitch, single and walk to instantly load the bases this afternoon. A 1-1 fastball to leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar barely grazed him on the arm, but he took first base. Trea Turner then singled to center on an 0-1 changeup and Juan Soto walked on five pitches, and Means was in hot water almost before breaking a sweat.

But cleanup hitter Josh Bell popped out on a first-pitch changeup, and that helped. Batting fifth, Zimmerman hit a grounder to third. The Orioles could not turn two to get out of the inning, and a run scored as they got the runner out at second base. When Josh Harrison grounded out, Means had done a fine job at minimizing damage and his day started getting better quickly after that.

He kept the Nats off the board from the second through the fifth, needing just 36 pitches over those four innings.

The Orioles began today with three straight games where they hit two homers each, and each of the six home runs were solo homers. Then they added three solo shots today to back Means.

With one out in the home first, Trey Mancini blasted the O’s longest homer of the year and their longest since one Jonathan Villar hit on May 27, 2019. Mancini mashed No. 18 on a 2-0 fastball that soared out of the park 455 feet into left-center. That tied the game 1-1 as Mancini homered for the second straight game for the third time this year.

Franco gave them a 2-1 lead in the second when he blasted Paolo Espino’s 3-2 slider 418 feet. McKenna hit his first major league homer on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth. This homer to center gave Baltimore a 3-1 lead.

That lead held until Zimmerman’s big swing in the sixth. The lead he provided held until the last of the ninth.

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