For most of this first half, if an Orioles starter got shelled early and couldn't pitch deep into a game, a loss was inevitable. Even when the starters did pitch well, the offense didn't hit or the bullpen collapsed and the effort was wasted.
Then something happened on the way to another disastrous homestand; the Orioles learned how to rally effectively Thursday night against the Florida Marlins and haven't stopped since.
With their 6-5 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday before an excitable announced crowd of 28,635 — many presumably at Camden Yards to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1970 championship team — the Orioles have won three straight to tie a season high.
And all three victories have occurred after their starters dug an early hole.
"Another good, come-from-behind win," said Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel. "We're definitely going to enjoy this. The guys are pushing themselves. That's a good sign for me. The players are not quitting."
By getting the win, the Orioles (22-52) have secured their first series victory since May 11-13 against the Seattle Mariners, halting a span of 13 winless series (0-12-1). Now, they'll take on the Nationals today in hopes of clinching their second series sweep this season.
A surprising turnaround considering they were facing a sweep by the Marlins on Thursday, when they were down 3-0 in the second inning. They rallied to win, 11-5, then were down 6-0 in the fourth on Friday to the Nationals before winning, 7-6.
On Saturday, right-hander Brad Bergesen, who was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk before the game and hadn't started with the Orioles since getting rocked by the New York Yankees on June 2, allowed four runs in the third and one in the fourth.
"I felt like I had a pretty decent sinker," said Bergesen, who allowed five runs on six hits and two walks in four innings. "Really, I felt like maybe [I made] two or three bad pitches today and I paid for all three of them."
What Bergesen didn't realize was that his teammates had the Nats right where they wanted them.
"We were down early — everyone was like, we have a chance," center fielder Adam Jones said. "We can hit, we can."
Trailing 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Jones started the comeback with his 12th homer of the season, and seventh in June, a solo shot against Nats starter Livan Hernandez. The Orioles then tied the game in the fifth with a four-run rally that included RBI singles by Miguel Tejada and Nick Markakis and a two-run single by Matt Wieters, who had three of the club's 14 hits.
It was the fifth consecutive game in which the much maligned offense has had at least 10 hits and the first time this year the Orioles have scored six or more runs in three consecutive games.
"I think it's huge," Wieters said of another comeback. "No matter what we get down by, we're going to be able to swing and get our way back into it. I think it's a big boost. Especially getting three in a row is good for this team, so hopefully it can carry us forward and keep going."
As on Friday, when they scored the winning run in the ninth on a Nationals error, the Orioles' go-ahead and winning runs came courtesy of a Washington mistake.
With runners on first and third and two outs in the seventh, hard-throwing Nationals rookie Drew Storen entered to face pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton, who didn't start for the second straight game because of back stiffness.
On a 1-1 count, Storen threw a wild pitch that skittered past Ivan Rodriguez and to the backstop as Luke Scott sprinted home to give the Orioles the lead.
"You can just tell by our reaction. Right now, we're doing something we haven't done before," said Tejada, who had three hits and has driven in seven runs in his past four games. "We all believe that no matter how many runs we are in the hole, we can come back."
With Bergesen becoming the third consecutive starter to fail to pitch beyond five innings, the game was turned over to an Orioles bullpen that has been phenomenal during this stretch, allowing just one run and eight hits in 132/3 innings (0.66 ERA).
"Early in the year we had our struggles, but as of late we've been pitching a lot better," said Jason Berken (1-1, 1.70 ERA) who continued his impressive conversion to relief with a hitless 11/3 innings. "The biggest thing was just trying to stay positive the whole time, and we knew things would turn around sooner or later."
Mark Hendrickson replaced Bergesen and threw two scoreless innings, followed by Berken, left-hander Will Ohman (two batters, two outs) and closer Alfredo Simon, who notched his eighth save in nine chances with a perfect ninth.
With the win, the Orioles took a 3-2 season lead against the Nationals (33-42), who have lost 19 of their past 23 road games.
A win today would be a season-high four in a row for the Orioles and would provide them with more hope that maybe things in this unsettling season are shifting — ever so slightly.
"To start the season, it was when we hit, we didn't pitch, when we pitched, we didn't hit," Ohman said. "There's been a convergence, the aligning of the stars, and all of a sudden we have won three in a row."
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