BALTIMORE -- With three consecutive wins against the Texas Rangers, including Wednesday's come-from-behind, rain-soaked 6-4 victory, an obvious question has arisen.
Manny Machado who?
OK, maybe it's not really a burning sentiment at this point. But since the Orioles' Platinum Glove third baseman began serving his five-game suspension Monday--leaving the Orioles roster short one player--they haven't lost.
Life without Machado kicked up a notch Wednesday when his temporary replacement at third base, Ryan Flaherty, smacked a 91-mph fastball from Texas left-hander Neal Cotts (2-5) onto the flag court beyond right field to give the Orioles a one-run lead and ultimately another win.
It took some time, though.
Play was suspended for 1 hour and 38 minutes with one out in the bottom of the eighth. By the time the game resumed around 11:50 p.m., no more than 200 of the announced 13,478 -- the smallest crowd this season at Camden Yards--remained.
The Orioles (45-39) are now six games over .500, tying their season high from May 10 when they were 20-14. They also have achieved a winning record at home (22-21) for the first time since May 12. And they remain one game behind the American League East-leading Toronto Blue Jays (47-39), who beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-4, on Wednesday.
The Orioles will go for the four-game sweep Thursday against the injury-depleted Rangers (37-47) and their ace, right-hander Yu Darvish. And they hope to keep hitting home runs.
Center fielder Adam Jones hit a solo shot in the fourth, his 16th homer of the season, and Flaherty's fourth of the year provided the eventual game-winner in the seventh. It was the sixth straight game in which the Orioles have gone deep at least twice and their 25th multihomer game in their last 42. All four of Flaherty's homers this season have come at home.
Early on, though, the Rangers controlled the game.
Through five innings, the Orioles' top starter, Chris Tillman, was outpitched by Miles Mikolas, a converted reliever who had never made a major league start and had never before pitched for the Rangers in a regular season game.
Mikolas, who made a combined 27 appearances for the San Diego Padres in the past two years, hadn't yet pitched in the majors this year. He was recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Round Rock after the Rangers designated former Orioles left-hander Joe Saunders for assignment.
On his first pitch, Mikolas induced Nick Markakis to ground out--part of an 11-pitch perfect inning for the 25-year-old right-hander. He cruised through five innings, allowing just three hits and the one run on Jones' homer. He almost gave up another home run, but Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin jumped at the wall to rob Nelson Cruz of his 27th home run.
In the sixth, Mikolas walked the first two batters he faced--the only two he allowed in the game--and he was removed for right-hander Jason Frasor after throwing just 77 pitches.
The Orioles pounced on Frasor, though the 36-year-old veteran partially caused his own trouble.
After Frasor's wild pitch allowed the runners to move up a base, Jones hit a sacrifice fly, and Cruz followed with an RBI single to left field. Frasor walked Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy singled to tie the game.
The Orioles added two more runs in the seventh on Flaherty's homer--the 20th of his three-season career and just the third against a left-hander--and an RBI single by Jones.
Making a late push for his third consecutive All-Star Game appearance, Jones drove in a run in three consecutive plate appearances and now has 52 RBIs on the season.
The club also benefited from another strong bullpen effort -- 3 1/3 scoreless innings, including four key outs from Brad Brach (2-0) and Zach Britton's 11th save in 13 chances. He is now tied for the team lead with Tommy Hunter, whom Britton replaced as closer May 15. Those performances handed Tillman a no-decision, despite a shaky outing.
Entering Wednesday night, Tillman had surrendered just five runs total in his past four starts--all quality outings--spanning 28 innings. With two outs in the third inning Wednesday he already had permitted four runs (three earned) and dealt with a bit of a controversy.
After Shin-Soo Choo walked to lead off the third inning, Tillman threw a high and tight fastball that Elvis Andrus inexplicably swung at and fouled off. Immediately, home plate umpire Toby Basner signaled catcher's interference and sent Andrus to first base--to the protest of Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph.
The four umpires met and discussed the play and upheld Basner's ruling.
After that scrum, Orioles manager Buck Showalter argued the call for several minutes--his most protracted argument of the season--but the catcher's interference call is not challengeable by video review. In one slow-motion television replay, however, Andrus' bat did appear to hit Joseph's glove before striking the ball.
The call was fairly significant: Two batters later, Adrian Beltre slapped a double down the right-field line to score Choo and Andrus, who just beat the relay throw at home plate from Jonathan Schoop. Beltre later scored on a two-out single by Martin.
It gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead; Choo scored in the first on Alex Rios' single to center field. That was the 16th run Tillman had allowed in the first inning this season. He has now given up 31 runs in the first two innings of his 18 starts and just 21 runs in every other inning combined.
Tillman didn't give up many hard hits Wednesday. And he certainly was better than his last outing against the Rangers in Arlington, when he was tagged for five earned runs in one inning.
But after his promising recent run following that start, Tillman struggled with his command again Wednesday, throwing only 60 of his 111 pitches for strikes in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits and four walks while striking out two.
Yet these hard-to-figure Orioles rose above the insufficient outing and a torrential downpour to win again despite having only 24 players on their active roster.
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