The Orioles were 0-51 when trailing after eight innings, and the Washington Nationals had closer Brad Hand, who’d saved two games against them in May.
Down 4-3, Hand (5-4) hit Maikel Franco with a pitch to start the bottom of the ninth. Ryan McKenna, who’d earlier hit his first major league home run, singled to right-center, sending Franco to third. Pinch-hitter Austin Hays walked to load the bases. Pat Valaika’s sacrifice fly to right scored Franco to tie the score, 4-4.
Ramón Urías pinch-hit for catcher Austin Wynns and grounded sharply to third. McKenna broke for home on contact. Carter Kieboom fielded the ball cleanly and threw home to catcher Tres Barrera. McKenna’s speed and a headfirst slide just beat the tag by Barrera. After a brief review, McKenna was ruled safe and the Orioles (34-64) had a three-game sweep over the Nationals (45-53) before an announced crowd of 15,690 at Oriole Park on Sunday.
“I was going on contact there,” McKenna said after the Orioles’ 5-4 comeback victory. “It was the right play, right read.”
Cole Sulser (3-1) retired the only batter he faced in the ninth for the win.
In addition to their first win when trailing after eight, it was the Orioles’ third three-game sweep, and the team’s sixth three-game winning streak.
“It’s something we haven’t done,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s nice to get a sweep. It’s nice to have a come-from-behind win. We haven’t had that very much in the last few years. It’s fun to watch our guys celebrate like that.”
It was the first three-game sweep at home of the Nationals since June 25-27, 2010.
In the first, starter John Means loaded the bases. He hit Alcides Escobar with a pitch, the first of three he would have on the afternoon. Trea Turner singled, and Juan Soto walked. Josh Bell popped to short. Ryan Zimmerman grounded to third, and Escobar scored with Soto out at second.
Means retired nine straight before Bell singled to lead off the fourth, but Zimmerman hit into a double play.
Escobar was hit by Means again to begin the sixth. Turner singled, and with two outs, Zimmerman homered to center, and Washington led, 4-3.
Trey Mancini slammed a 455- foot home run with one out in the first against Paolo Espino. It was his 18th and second in as many games.
Franco led off the second with his 10th homer, his first since he broke up the Houston Astros’ combined no-hitter in the eighth inning on June 21st.
McKenna, who was briefly optioned earlier in the week to make room for Means’ return, hit his first major league homer in the fourth, and the Orioles led, 3-1.
“He’s an energetic player,” Hyde said of McKenna. “I like his baserunning ability. He’s been fun to have on the club because there’s a lot of life in how he plays, energy in how he plays.”
Cedric Mullins and Mancini singled to begin the eighth against Daniel Hudson, but Mountcastle hit into a double play, and DJ Stewart struck out.
Means allowed four runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking one, striking out two and hitting three batters. It was his second start since returning from the injured list after missing six weeks beause of a strained left shoulder. The Orioles hadn’t won any of Means’ starts since his no-hitter on May 5.
“I felt a lot more in control today,” Means said. “I felt like I was hitting my spots a little better. The changeup felt a lot better than it did. It felt less firm
“I felt more in control. The only thing I felt was that I wished I could have done better was throw some inside fastballs better.”
Notes: The Orioles are off on Monday. … Spenser Watkins (2-0, 1.65 ERA) and Jorge López (2-12, 5.84) will be the starters when the Orioles face the Miami Marlins in a two-game series beginning on Tuesday. … Hyde said he wasn’t sure if Keegan Akin would get a start or be in the bullpen when he returns from Covid-19 protocols. Hyde said Alexander Wells will get a start when the Orioles are in Detroit for a four-game series next week. … Ravens coach John Harbaugh threw out the first pitch, using a football that he threw to Hyde … Means was the first Oriole starter to hit three batters since Miguel Gonzalez on July 25, 2012.