WASHINGTON—The Orioles were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position, left 11 runners on base and still managed to defeat the Washington Nationals, 4-3, before an announced crowd of 31,619 at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.
With just 21 games remaining and their hopes for a wild-card berth dimming, the Orioles needed a win against the team with the worst record in baseball. And they heard encouragement in the top of the ninth when many of the fans still remaining started a “Let’s Go O’s” chant.
The Orioles (74-67) had lost six of eight and are five games behind the third wild-card team, the Tampa Bay Rays, who split a day/night doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dillon Tate, Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista, pitching for the first time in a week, combined for four hitless innings against the Nationals (49-93) to preserve the win. Bautista earned his 13th save.
Tate pitched 1 1/3 innings. Pérez retired each of the five batters he faced, and Bautista, who had earned a six-out save against Toronto on September 6th and then was held out because of arm fatigue, pitched a hitless ninth.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score a few more and we just didn’t, but fortunately we got enough,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Great stuff from our pitching tonight.”
Catcher Adley Rutschman singled with one out in the first against Nationals starter Cory Abbott. He moved to second on a passed ball by catcher Israel Pineta and scored on a two-out single by Gunnar Henderson.
Joey Meneses singled with one out in the bottom of the first, and a two-out bloop by Luis Garcia skipped past Kyle Stowers in left, and the score was tied at 1.
In the top of the second, the Orioles loaded the bases, and Anthony Santander was called out on strikes on a pitch that appeared low and outside.
Washington took a 3-1 lead in the third when Ildemaro Vargas singled and Lane Thomas doubled. Vargas scored on a single by Luke Voit, and Thomas scored on a forceout by Garcia.
Austin Hays led off the fourth with a single and Jorge Mateo followed with a roller to third. He beat a wild throw to first by Vargas, and Hays took third.
Former Oriole Hunter Harvey (1-1) relieved Abbott, and Hays scored when Cedric Mullins hit into a double play
Ryan Mountcastle hit his 22nd home run to right-center off Harvey to tie the score at 3 leading off the fifth.
“That was the best at-bats he’s taken in months,” Hyde said about Mountcastle’s night. “The walks, the ability to lay off some breaking balls down, tough pitches, go deep in the count, and turn around 100 to right-center. He just has so much power that way.
“When he’s really geared in to stay on the ball, get another hit over there. He’s got so much ability and he showed you tonight what he’s capable of.”
On Monday night, Mountcastle had dinner with Harvey, an old friend.
“We were just talking smack to each other, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to take you deep,’ and he’s like, ‘I’m going to hit you right in the back.’ I told him: ‘You better not hit me in the back. You throw way too hard.’
“I got him, man, and he’s probably one of my favorite home runs that I’ve ever hit. I think right when I hit it, I looked at him in the corner of my eye. He had a little smile on his face, even after he gave it up. It was a cool moment.”
Henderson followed with a double, and Ramón Urías reached on an infield single and advanced to second on wild pitch. With one out, Hays dropped a double into right, scoring Henderson to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
“It’s always nice to get a bloop hit with runners in scoring position,” Hays said. “Try to stay through the middle of the field, get something to hit hard right there and found a hole. I was glad to see it find some grass.”
Leftfielder Alex Call made a diving catch on a line drive to left by Mullins, robbing him of an extra-base hit and the Orioles of two more runs. The Orioles left nine runners on base in the first five innings.
The Nationals’ CJ Abrams doubled to begin the sixth, and Tate replaced Oriole starter Dean Kremer. Pineda grounded to Mateo at short, and Abrams, who decided to break for third, was thrown out to erase a chance to tie the score by Washington.
Kremer (7-5) allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings.
“Every win means something, no matter who against and what time of year,” Kremer said. “A win’s a win. It was our 74th of the season, and that’s all we ask for.”
The Orioles play Washington again on Wednesday before going to Toronto for three games this weekend.
“It’s still a big league team over there,” Hays said. “They still have good players, so it doesn’t matter who’s wearing what uniform, any night. We’ll just go out there and play nine innings of relentless baseball and get us back on the winning bracket and come in tomorrow and get a series win and sweep on the same day.”
Notes: Rutschman hit his 30th double. He’s just the second Oriole rookie to record 30 doubles in a season after joining the club on May 21st. In 1982, Cal Ripken Jr. had 32 doubles. … Mullins and Urías were hit by pitches. The Orioles lead the American League with 77 hit batsmen, and Mullins’ 31st steal is one more than he had last year, when he also hit 30 home runs. … Tyler Wells (7-6, 3.91) will face left-hander Patrick Corbin (6-18, 6.30) on Wednesday night.
Minor league update: Brooklyn defeated High-A Aberdeen, 8-1, in the opening game of their best 2-of-3 in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Jean Pinto allowed three runs on five hits in four innings. Antonio Velez gave up five runs, four earned, in 3 1/3.
Centerfielder Jud Fabian homered and designated hitter Heston Kjerstad had two hits. Game 2 is at Aberdeen on Thursday, and, if necessary, Game 3 on Friday.
Leftfielder Richie Martin and designated hitter Cadyn Grenier each drove in three runs as Triple-A Norfolk defeated Charlotte, 12-4. Spenser Watkins (1-0) allowed one run on two hits in five innings. Alexander Wells allowed three runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Martin and centerfielder Colton Cowser each hit their second home run.
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Oriole questions later this week. Please email them to: [email protected].