The Orioles’ 3-2 extra-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon was a long time coming — in more ways than one.
The Orioles needed 14 innings — and five hours and 14 minutes — to complete a three-game sweep of the division-rival Rays, a monumental win for the long-suffering baseball fans of Baltimore.
Camden Yards, was the Orioles’ 81st of the season, guaranteeing them at least a .500 record and snapping the club’s streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
These Orioles (81-62) obviously have more lofty goals, ones that include a playoff berth and division title for the first time since they went wire to wire in the American League East in 1997. But the fact that this team snapped one of this city’s most dubious sports distinctions wasn’t lost on them.
“I don't think our guys take anything for granted,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “There's a bigger goal in mind, and that wasn't the goal from Day One this spring. [Or], really, Day One of the off-season.”
With just 19 games remaining in the regular season, the Orioles boarded their team charter to the West Coast — they open a three-game series Friday night in Oakland, then go to Seattle on Monday for three before traveling to Boston — later than anticipated Thursday evening. But they were right where they wanted to be.
Atop the AL East.
The Orioles kept at least a share of the division lead, while sending the Rays (77-66) to four games back in the division and AL wild-card standings.
“I definitely think it’s something to be proud of,” said Orioles right fielder Chris Davis, who went 3-for-4 Thursday. “We’ve played well so far this year and put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. But we’re not looking back right now. We’re looking forward, one game at a time, and [trying] to pile up the wins.”
The last year the Orioles didn’t have a losing season, Machado was just five years old. On Thursday, his two-out single to left field drove in Adam Jones with the winning run in the bottom of the 14th, giving the Orioles their 13th straight extra-inning victory and improving their record to 27-7 in one-run games.
“It feels great,” Machado said. “It feels even better [that] we're winning and we having great success. The thing about this team is we worry about the game tomorrow. We've got a big series coming up. Stay focused on what comes next.”
The Orioles, winners of 14 of their last 19, put together their winning rally with two outs as Jones drew a walk and late-inning substitute Endy Chavez slapped a single to left.
Machado, whose defensive heroics in played a key role in Wendesday’s one-run win over Tampa Bay, was given a green light with a 3-0 count and lined rookie Chris Archer’s pitch to left, where it fell just in front of a diving Matt Joyce for the Orioles’ second walk-off win in as many days.
“With their outfield, they’re so good defensively, you expect them to catch everything,” Showalter said. “It was fortunate it found some grass.”
The Orioles recorded their sixth series sweep — their fifth at Camden Yards — and have won 10 of their last 13 series.
The Rays used a club record 26 players in the game — including nine pitchers — the most by an AL team in 40 years.(Oakland used 30 on Sept. 19, 1972.)
Tampa Bay also successfully employed a five-man infield when the Orioles had the bases loaded and no outs in the 13th inning, preventing the winning run from scoring despite leaving huge holes in the outfield.
“You've got to give credit to the competition, too,” Orioles closer Jim Johnson said. “They're not making it easy for us. There was a big momentum swing in the game with that bases-loaded situation. … It's just the way baseball works out sometime.”
Orioles relievers Luis Ayala, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter and Randy Wolf combined to throw five scoreless extra innings, allowing just three hits and striking out eight, lowing the bullpen’s ERA in extra innings to 0.98 (46 innings, 5 earned runs).
Manny Machado's 14th-inning single clinches the Orioles' first non-losing season since 1997
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