BALTIMORE—The Orioles hope their days of scoreboard watching are over and that they can concentrate on winning the American League East on Thursday night.
If the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox, they’ll be the AL East champions. They reduced their magic number to one with a 5-1 win over the Washington Nationals before an announced crowd of 24,278 at Camden Yards on Wednesday night while the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t help. The Rays beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-0, and don’t play again until Friday.
“It was good to get the one today, but tomorrow’s a new day,” Adley Rutschman said. “Got to go out and get it and everyone’s excited. Tomorrow, the same thing as it always is and keep going with the process.”
Rutschman smiled when asked if he checked Tampa Bay’s score during the game.
“A little bit, just to see,” he said, chuckling.
The Orioles (99-59) are 40 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1979 season. They swept the four games they played against Washington (69-90), allowing just one run.
Rutschman hit a two-run home run, his 20th, in the third against Nationals starter Patrick Corbin.
Jorge Mateo walked, leading off the fifth, moved to second on a passed ball by Kelbert Ruiz, stole third, his 30th of the season, and scored on Rutschman’s single to right. Jordan Westburg’s bases-loaded walk scored Anthony Santander and chased Corbin (10-15).
Cedric Mullins doubled to start the sixth against Andrés Machado. Mullins moved to third on Mateo’s bunt and scored on Hays’ single for a 5-1 lead.
“We’re looking forward to coming to the ballpark tomorrow and hopefully we can do something special tomorrow,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Oriole starter Grayson Rodriguez (7-4) allowed a first-inning single to Ruiz and retired 11 straight until Dominic Smith doubled in the fifth. Smith scored on Jake Alu’s single.
Rodriguez allowed one run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and no walks.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Rodriguez said. “We’re taking it day-by-day. We’re not looking at celebrating tomorrow. We’re going to try to win a game. If it happens, it happens.”
Danny Coulombe, Jacob Webb and Tyler Wells combined to retire the final 10 batters. Oriole pitching struck out 10 batters without walking any.
“Our starters have really given us a nice buffer and given the bullpen a break, which has been huge.” Rutschman said.
If the Orioles defeat the Red Sox if any of the four games they’ll play this final weekend of the regular season, they’ll host the American League Division Series beginning on October 7th.
“All these guys want extra rest,” Rodriguez said. “It never hurts. Just getting an extra breath of fresh air. We’re going to get that October boost. Really excited to see what these guys can do. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve never been to a big league postseason game before. I always just watched them on TV.”
The Orioles will clinch the East with their 100th win — two years after losing 110.
“It’s in our hands right now, that’s a lot of fun,” Hyde said. “We’re playing in the toughest division in sports. To lose 110 two years ago and have a chance to win 100 now says a lot about the guys in that room. They’ve learned to battle and fight and grind and beat good teams. In just two years to do what they’re doing is amazing.”
Notes: The Orioles conclude the regular season with a four-game series against Boston beginning on Thursday at 6:35 p.m. Dean Kremer (12-5, 4.25) will face Chris Sale (6-4, 4.42). … Norfolk evened its International League Championship Series with a 7-2 win over Durham. Joey Ortiz drove in three runs. Kyle Stowers and Coby Mayo homered. Cole Irvin and Austin Voth combined for seven scoreless innings. They gave up four hits and struck out 14. The third and deciding game is tonight. … Mateo is the sixth Oriole to steal 30 bases in consecutive seasons. Mullins, who did it 2021 and 2022, was the last.