O's rally again, sweep Nationals

Orioles erase 3-0 deficit in 4-3 triumph

victory is 4th straight comeback win

June 27, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Once again, there was frustration emanating from Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon, a manager wondering whether his club could reach any lower and a star player publicly searching for answers to the continual losing.

But take solace Orioles fans, pop the corks, in fact, because all that head shaking was going on in the visitors' clubhouse.

After the Orioles' 4-3 win against the regional rival Washington Nationals, the home clubhouse was filled with the suddenly common blaring of rock and country music -- a sound perhaps nearly as sweet to the beleaguered Orioles as the "sweeeep" chant from the announced crowd of 22,951 in the ninth inning.

It was just the second series sweep of the season for the Orioles (23-52), the first coming April 30-May 2 against the Boston Red Sox. This one might have been more soothing for the club's collective psyche because of how deep the Orioles had sunk and the manner in which they have risen -- all-satisfying, late-game comebacks.

"We've seen basically the same kind of ballgame here for the last three days," Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said. "The team is not quitting, coming back from being down. So it's very nice. Guys are feeling good about that. We're certainly enjoying it."

The Orioles have won four straight for the first time this year; they had won only four in June before this hot streak. Including an 11-5 victory over the Florida Marlins on Thursday, the Orioles have rallied after trailing at least 3-0 in their past four games.

It's enough to make the club with the worst record in baseball believe it has the firepower to keep doing this.

"I think that's what has happened here," said third baseman Miguel Tejada, whose eighth-inning RBI single gave the Orioles the 4-3 lead. "I think what we did the last game against the Marlins and these games against the Nationals, I think that will put another thing in our minds."

As has been the blueprint during the winning streak, the Nationals took the lead with three runs in the fourth against Jeremy Guthrie. He gave up a run-scoring triple to Josh Willingham on a ball that fooled Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who broke a step to his left before dashing right toward the deep liner. Two pitches later, Roger Bernadina homered.

Those were the only runs yielded by Guthrie, who pitched well enough to win but left after the sixth with the score tied at 3. The Orioles took their first -- and lasting -- lead in the eighth when Tejada's single off Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard (8-5) scored Corey Patterson.

It capped a comeback that started with a three-run fifth, when the Orioles scored on a double by Jones, a single by Scott Moore and a Nationals throwing error. In the three games against Washington, the Orioles were down 6-0, 5-0 and 3-0 before clinching each victory.

"For these three games, we don't quit. We don't give up," said Guthrie, who allowed three hits and a season-high four walks in six innings, his 10th quality start of the season. "I think we've done that all season, but to have these three comebacks, those are big wins for any ballclub, especially for us, the way we've struggled in certain aspects of our game. Those are tremendous wins."

They were also heartbreaking losses for a Washington squad that is experiencing its own downward spiral. The Nationals (33-43) have lost 12 of their past 15 since they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in an early-June series that marked the debut of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg. Six of those 12 losses -- including four consecutive -- have been by one run.

"I certainly don't want to go lower," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said when asked whether being swept by the team with the worst record in baseball was rock bottom. "Our players are dealing with the ballgame at hand when the umpire says, 'Play ball.' We agonize over a loss, multiple losses. But I don't have any phrases like [rock bottom] to attribute to it."

After the game, Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn uttered remarks very familiar for Orioles fans this season.

"It's very frustrating, I know we are capable of winning," Dunn said. "We are doing everything to lose right now and not to win. I don't know what we need to do to fix that."

The Orioles didn't play a perfect game, for sure. They didn't get a hit against starter Luis Atilano until the fourth inning. And they blew an important scoring chance in the eighth when Julio Lugo hit a one-out double and then was picked off second by catcher Wil Nieves as he started to steal and then hesitated.

"That is just not a smart play. Lugo knows it," Samuel said. "He's trying to help the club win, but that is just not something we want to try in that situation."

But unlike in past games this season, one brain freeze or bad decision didn't cost the Orioles -- partially because the team's bullpen continued its tremendous run. Jason Berken, Will Ohman, David Hernandez (3-6) and Alfredo Simon (ninth save) combined for three scoreless innings.

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