Baltimore rallied from a five-run deficit -- a night removed from erasing a season-high six-run hole -- to expunge an ineffective outing from starter Brad Bergesen and secure a 6-5 victory over Washington in front of 28,635 at Camden Yards on Saturday.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"The way we are playing right now, that's the way this team is supposed to be playing," third baseman Miguel Tejada said of the Orioles' third straight win, which tied a season high and secured interim manager Juan Samuel his first series victory.
"We are feeling like it doesn't matter how many runs the [other team] scores, and we're down," Tejada said. "We have a chance."
That chance came in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Luke Scott scored on rookie right-hander Drew Storen's wild pitch to break a 5-5 tie. Matt Wieters delivered a two-out single off reliever Sean Burnett to move Scott -- who reached on a fielder's choice -- over to third base. Samuel summoned Ty Wigginton to pinch-hit and the Nationals responded by yanking the lefty Burnett in favor of Storen. Wigginton, who was held out of the starting lineup the past two days with back stiffness, didn't need to exert himself. Storen's third pitch sailed wide of home plate, securing the Orioles' 22nd victory and bragging rights in the Battle of the Beltways Series.
"It's huge, especially for our offense to see that no matter what we get down by, we're going to be able to swing and get our way back into it," said Wieters, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run single in the fifth.
"It's a big boost."
It was also a sigh of relief for a team that entered Saturday with the worst record in baseball, spurring jokes from late-night TV host David Letterman and drawing comparisons to the 120-loss 1962 Mets.
"You could see these guys in the dugout not giving up, because I hear them cheering for each other, which is a good thing," said Samuel. "Some of the coaches [were] doing that, keeping the guys from going back to what was going on [here] for a while, what we have all seen."
There was no give in Saturday's Orioles, who bailed out Bergesen in his first big league start since being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last week. Bergesen lasted just four innings, exiting after spotting the Nationals a five-run lead.
"I felt like I had a pretty decent sinker," said Bergesen who has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his past four starts. "Really, I felt like maybe two or three bad pitches, and I paid for all three of them."
Fortunately for Bergesen, the Orioles found payback. Adam Jones got things going with a solo blast off Nationals starter Livan Hernandez in the fourth inning, and the rest of the bats came alive in the next frame. The O's delivered four straight hits, including Corey Patterson's double, to plate two runs and get Washington's bullpen busy in a hurry. Hernandez got Scott to strike out looking for the inning's first out, and Jones' ground ball moved Tejada and Nick Markakis into scoring position. The pair crossed the plate on Wieters' game-tying line drive to right field.
"We were down early, everyone was like, 'We have a chance. We can hit, we can,'" said Jones, who extended his hitting streak to seven games.
"Everybody had good at-bats, just generally throughout the game. I think that helped out. It put Livan, who is a smart pitcher but not a strikeout pitcher, put him in harm's way."
Hernandez exited after the sixth, leaving the tie game in the hands of each team's respective bullpens. For an Orioles 'pen missing closer Michael Gonzalez, setup man Jim Johnson and reliever Koji Uehara, to say it's been a struggle to hold leads would be an understatement. The O's entered Saturday with 12 blown saves in 24 opportunities, but for the third straight night, the 'pen -- led by a superb 1 1/3 scoreless stint from Jason Berken -- came through in the clutch.
"The biggest thing was just trying to stay positive the whole time, and we knew things would turn around sooner or later," said Berken, who stranded an inherited runner in the seventh inning. "Fortunately, lately we've been able to throw the ball pretty well."
Following Bergesen's abbreviated outing, long man Mark Hendrickson retired six straight and exited in favor of Berken after Nyjer Morgan's leadoff seventh-inning single. With Cristian Guzman's sacrifice bunt putting the go-ahead run in scoring position, Berken got a pair of fly balls to left field -- sandwiched around an intentional walk to Adam Dunn -- to keep the score deadlocked at 6.
"He's doing a tremendous job for us coming in late in key situations," Samuel said of Berken, who lowered his ERA to 1.70. "You throw him out there, and you know what you're getting from him. It's very comforting for me to see him.
"We saw him start [last season] and struggle. We saw him as a long guy [earlier this year]. Now, he seems to understand pitching and knows that his stuff could work."
The same can be said for the Orioles, who are beginning to learn how to play baseball and win games, as a team.
"We are not going to be the [doormats] for others," Tejada said. "We don't want to be the team that everybody wants to come and think they will beat. We don't want that. We want to be professional and will play hard and make sure that when the other teams come here, those teams will have to play hard to beat us."
Added Jones: "I think we can even play better baseball. We will take it right now, [but] we have to continue to improve as a team."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.