Baez, who hadn't had an at-bat since 2003, said he couldn't remember scoring a run at any level. The right-hander had already thrown two innings when his batting slot came up with two outs in the top of the 12th, and manager Dave Trembley elected to keep him in because he only had one substitute remaining.
Baez quickly fell behind but was able to top a short spinner toward third base. Baez made it safe without a throw, and moved over to third base when Brian Roberts hit a ground-rule double up the left-field line. Moments later, Adam Jones drilled a double to nearly the same place, chasing both runs across the plate.
"The best players step up when it counts," said Trembley. "You may get them once, you may get them twice, but sooner or later they're going to come through for you. And that's why they're in the lineup hitting where they're at. ... You've got to go up there with confidence and know you can get it done. I thought the infield hit by Baez loosened the club up, and then once Roberts got the hit, you kind of felt like things were going in your favor."
An inning or so earlier, the game had felt like it might never end. Baltimore had scored all of its runs in the first three innings, and Washington hadn't scored since the fourth. The O's didn't even push a runner to scoring position in between the fourth and the ninth, but Baez and company rendered all of that irrelevant.
Baez, who was 0-for-3 for his career before Friday night, said he had never been on the basepaths during a game. And his teammates took note of the milestone, clamoring for the souvenir ball even with the game on the line.
"There were more guys yelling out of the dugout about that," Trembley said. "We're trying to win the darn game, they want to get the darn baseball. I'm trying to figure out who I'm going to bring in to pitch next and whether we have enough time to get [George] Sherrill warmed up, and guys want to get the baseball. But that's good for the guys. That says something about the chemistry that's on this team. Everyone's pulling for one another."
The Orioles got off to a quick start against rookie Jordan Zimmermann, using a line-drive solo homer by Nolan Reimold in the second inning and a two-out rally centered around a Jones double in the third. They wouldn't get much offense after that and couldn't convert a decent scoring opportunity in the 10th inning.
The Nationals got all of its offense on one swing and fell to 0-6 in extra-inning games. Ryan Zimmerman drilled a game-tying home run off Rich Hill in the fourth inning, setting the stage for the late drama. Washington's best chance to pull ahead came in the sixth, but Matt Albers got a strikeout to end the threat.
Jim Johnson worked two scoreless innings for Baltimore, and Sherrill worked the 12th for the save.
"First off, we've got to give our entire pitching staff credit," said Jones of the victory. "They put up 11 zeroes, and there was only one big hit all game for them. ... We knew there was a point in time when somebody was going to make a mistake, and it's good that we came out on the side that cashed in on the mistake."
Hill pitched well for the O's in his second start of the season, holding the Nats to three hits and rarely working into trouble. The southpaw walked two batters in the sixth inning, and with his pitch-count nearing 100, Trembley elected to go to his bullpen and freeze the tie game in its tracks.
"I thought Hill pitched with confidence," said Trembley, lauding the left-hander. "He used all his pitches, he doubled up on his breaking ball, he wasn't reluctant to throw his breaking pitch when he was behind in the count. I thought him and [catcher Chad] Moeller had a real good plan. His poise was very good."
Baltimore pushed a runner to scoring position in the 10th inning, but Nick Markakis swung through a Joe Beimel fastball to end the threat. The Orioles didn't challenge again until the 12th, courtesy of Baez and his infield nubber. Baez may have had a shot at scoring on the first double, but it bounced over the wall and out of play.
The drama didn't build for too much longer, as Jones rifled a ball that landed within a couple feet of the foul line. Baez and Roberts scored easily, enabling the Orioles to break a four-game losing streak.
"I was trying to make contact, just look for a fastball over the plate," Baez said. "I got lucky, I made the right contact, the ball went to the right place. And then Roberts and Adam hit two doubles. That was great."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.