In a season brimming with disappointment and underperformance, the O's -- for one night at least -- put questions of their late-game toughness and ability to win games to rest. Baltimore stormed back from a six-run deficit on Friday to top Washington and steal the first win of the Battle of the Beltways series in a 7-6 walk-off win.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"It wasn't looking good for us early on," said Orioles left fielder Corey Patterson, who went 3-for-4 and was robbed of a third-inning home run.
"I think there was a lot of heroes in this game. Pick one. In my mind, we just played great as a team, and that's the way we have to do [it]."
The Orioles capitalized on Cristian Guzman's errant throw to first base -- the Nationals' season-high fourth miscue -- to score pinch-runner Jake Fox and secure a opening win and potential first series win for interim manager Juan Samuel.
"I have to tip my hat to this team," said Samuel, who improved to 6-13 at the helm. "These guys didn't quit. We kept plugging and plugging, plugging, plugging."
With the score tied at 6, Matt Wieters worked a one-out walk to open the bottom of the ninth and Scott Moore punched a single into left field to bring Nationals closer Matt Capps in to face Julio Lugo. He grounded out to shortstop Ian Desmond in a would-be double play. But Guzman's errant throw to first allowed Fox to cross the plate, giving the Orioles their 21st victory.
Friday's win marked the Orioles' first back-to-back wins since beating Seattle on May 13-14. What followed when Fox crossed the plate -- hugs, fireworks and the second-largest crowd since Opening Day on their feet in thunderous applause -- was just as rare.
Still, it was a sorely-needed sight for a much-maligned offense -- on the heels of Thursday's 11-run victory -- celebrating the biggest comeback win of the season.
"That's something we really needed, and it gives us a lot of momentum moving forward," said starter Jake Arrieta, who allowed five earned runs over 4 1/3 frames and gave all the credit to the offense behind him.
"I think everyone's feeling pretty good in the clubhouse right now."
The feel-good vibes started in the eighth, when Samuel inserted Moore to pinch-hit for Garrett Atkins, who was 0-for-3 -- including grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the second.
"A lot of the times I'm not going to look at the matchup sheet, I'm going [to go] with what I feel," Samuel said of putting Moore, a lifetime 1-for-17 pinch-hitter with 10 strikeouts, on to face reliever Tyler Clippard.
His faith was rewarded as Moore -- who watched Wieters walk before him -- blasted a 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall to cut the Orioles' deficit to one.
"Wieters is a left-handed hitter, so I obviously paid close attention to how he was pitched in front of me," Moore said. "[Clippard] was missing up with his fastball a lot, and he did the same to me."
One out later, Cesar Izturis doubled and subsequently scored on Patterson's single up the middle to tie the game and shift the momentum to the home dugout.
"After [Moore's] home run, guys starting feeling [like], 'Hey we are only one run away,'" Samuel said. "Sometimes it takes that to get a club going, and that was a big, big, big boost for us there."
Facing a six-run deficit, the Orioles sliced the lead in half in the fifth, knocking starter J.D. Martin from the game in the process. The O's loaded the bases for the second time, with a pair of singles and an infield error -- this time by Desmond -- bringing Miguel Tejada to the plate. Tejada belted Martin's pitch to the deepest part of the park for a sacrifice fly, scoring Lugo and giving the O's their first run. Nick Markakis followed with a single that Desmond backhanded to stop on the infield grass, but his throw to second base sailed wide to allow another run through. Adam Jones' swinging bunt single scored Patterson for the inning's third run.
"I'm not going to say anything specific, but the way we are playing in general -- defensively -- isn't good enough," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of his club, which is last in the big leagues in errors and fielding percentage.
"I really can't explain it. I know we put the work in. I feel bad for the players. It's an issue for them," Riggleman said. "They see the number of errors. The games get away from us because we aren't making plays."
Nationals center field Nyjer Morgan certainly couldn't be put in that category. The acrobatic Morgan made a nice grab to rob Tejada of an extra-base hit, but his real highlight-worthy grab came when he leapt several feet over the fence, with his glove fully outstretched in midair, to deny Patterson of a homer.
"I think that's pretty much neck and neck, right below the catch Gary Mathews [Jr.] had in '06, in Texas," Patterson said of Morgan's web gem. "Gary was probably the best catch I've ever seen. But his was right behind it. I thought I had enough to get it [out], but he climbed up there, and it was a great catch."
Samuel couldn't believe what his eyes witnessed.
"I'm like, 'He's got no shot,'" Samuel said as he watched Morgan scale the wall. "Especially, you know how much the ball travels here. But that's one of the finest [catches] I have seen."
Friday's win washed away another abbreviated outing from Arrieta, who lasted at least six innings and won his first two big league starts, but has allowed 10 earned runs over 7 1/3 innings in the two that followed.
"I just really had a tough time avoiding that big hit," Arrieta said. "And I have to work toward that."
The 24-year-old Arrieta admitted that his first four Major League starts presented a learning curve, but said he felt his stuff was pretty good and the Nationals simply did a good job of finding holes. That he was able to avoid his second straight loss was a testament to the bats behind him.
"You got to give credit to our offense the way they swung the bats," Arrieta said. "I don't know if I saw more than one or two at-bats that weren't quality. Those guys really battled and were able to get us the win. So all the credit goes to them."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.