BALTIMORE--The Baltimore Orioles waited more than two hours after the scheduled first pitch for their first at-bat against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Following a pair of rain delays, leadoff hitter Nick Markakis didn't step into the batter's box until nearly 9:30 p.m. But once he did, the homer-happy Orioles put together a rare clinic on station-to-station baseball.
They had five hits--all singles--to score four runs in the first inning against Reds right-hander Mat Latos and held on for a 5-4 win in front of an announced 15,021 at Camden Yards.
This was just the seventh game between the two clubs since the franchises met in the 1970 World Series, which ended in the Orioles' second championship.
And on Tuesday, the Orioles' win--combined with a loss by the New York Yankees to the Boston Red Sox--cut their magic number to clinch the American League East to 17.
The Orioles (80-57) extended their division lead over the Yankees to a 91/2 games, tying their largest lead of the season. The win also put the Orioles within three victories of the best record in the major leagues, which is currently owned by the Angels(83-54).
The Orioles have won 30 of their last 32 games when scoring four or more runs. They are also 22-7 at home since June 30.
Tuesday night's game plodded along, ending almost 20 minutes after midnight. The Orioles held a 5-0 lead before right-hander Darren O'Day allowed a grand slam to Jay Bruce in an ugly eighth inning that turned a one-sided affair into a one-run game.
The start of Tuesday's game was delayed by rain by 23 minutes and another band of storms halted the game just two batters into the top of the first inning. Following a second delay of 1 hour and 46 minutes, the Orioles sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the first.
After Markakis led off the inning with a single to right field, Alejandro De Aza reached on an infield single in his first Orioles at-bat, beating out a slow roller down the third-base line.
Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis followed with back-to-back, one-out, run-scoring singles. And even though Jimmy Paredes was robbed of a hit on a diving play by second baseman Brandon Phillips, it still scored Cruz from third to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
Catcher Caleb Joseph then hit a looping single into center field that scored Davis from second base to give the Orioles a four-run lead. The Orioles are 16-1 when Joseph drives in a run.
For the second time in his last three outings, right-hander Bud Norris' start was interrupted by a rain delay, but he had thrown just 10 pitches and returned to the game once play resumed after nearly two hours.
On Aug. 23, Norris threw two innings against the Chicago Cubs before a 3-hour, 9-minute rain delay at Wrigley Field. Partially because the 100-year-old ballpark had no indoor mounds for Norris to remain warm, he didn't resume that game.
But on Tuesday, Norris remained in the game, giving the Orioles six shutout innings and holding the Reds (66-72) to just four hits.
Before the in-game delay, Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton beat out a comebacker that deflected off Norris' right leg. But he collided with first base umpire Mike DiMuro, forcing DiMuro from the game.
Shortly before Hamilton stole second base for his 55th steal of the year, a downpour ensued, delaying the game.
But once play resumed, the Orioles quickly got out of the inning. Todd Frazier grounded out on the first pitch after the delay, and Joseph threw out Hamilton attempting to steal third base. Brandon Phillips popped out to second base to end the inning.
The Orioles pounded Latos (5-4) for a career-high 10 hits over five innings, marking just the second time in his last eight starts that he failed to go at least six innings.
Even though the Orioles did most of their damage with small ball, they also tacked on to their major league-leading home run total with Jonathan Schoop's solo blast to open the second inning for the game's eventual winning run.
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