BALTIMORE – Monday was a tumultuous day around the Orioles. Manny Machado found out his five-game suspension wasn’t being reduced, and he started serving it that night.
Four games into that suspension, the Orioles are in first place for the first time since May 20. Their fourth straight win over the Texas Rangers, 5-2 before 24,535 at Oriole Park on Thursday night, put them one percentage point ahead of Toronto.
Without Machado and with Matt Wieters gone for the season, the Orioles are capitalizing on the low expectations theme.
“Here's a game and an opportunity to shine and do something a lot of people don't think you can do,” manager Buck Showalter said.
After beating the suddenly sad-sack Rangers (37-48), who have lost 13 of 15, the Orioles (46-39) scrambled to find a way to Boston, where they begin a three-game series on Friday afternoon.
Due to bad weather in the northeast, the Orioles charter plane was late, and they hoped to get to Boston before four a.m. Game time on Friday is 1:35 p.m.
Because the game was delayed by 56 minutes at the start and more rain was feared, Texas manager Ron Washington decided not to pitch Yu Darvish. He started Scott Baker instead. Manager Buck Showalter said they began preparing for both pitchers nearly three hours before the eventual start of the game.
Scott Baker went out to warm up instead of Darvish and the Orioles scored a run off him in the third. Nick Hundley led off with a double. He took third on Nick Markakis’ infield out and scored on Steve Pearce’s single.
It was the first of Pearce’s career high four hits. He also stole two bases.
“It feels really good, especially with the win for a sweep. Some close games. Definitely means more when we win,” Pearce said.
Texas tied it in the fourth. Adrian Beltre singled to lead off. With one out, Chris Gimenez doubled off Wei-Yin Chen, and Beltre scored on Carlos Pena’s infield out.
Shin Soo-Choo hit his eighth home run of the year with one out in the fifth to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
The Orioles took a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty led off with a double. Hundley’s double scored Flaherty, and with one out, Pearce’s double to center drove in Hundley.
Baker (0-2) left after 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.
Flaherty, playing third instead of Machado has had big hits in consecutive games. Hundley has eight hits in his last five games.
“We’ve got a lot of people with some strong constitutions that
don’t use those excuses that are around every corner, that ‘woe is me’ BS,” Showalter said.
Chen (8-3) allowed two runs on six hits in six innings. It was Chen’s first win in his last four starts. Through his translator, Chen called the six innings “a baseline.”
“I feel content, but I do hope I can get a little deeper in the game,” Chen said.
Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day and Zach Britton worked the last three innings. O’Day was especially sharp, getting five outs, and Britton picked up his 12th save.
Chen said there seems to be a unified effort not to let the Machado suspension affect them.
“I think maybe everybody just wanted to play harder and win every game while he’s not here, so that’s why we can keep winning when he’s not here,” Chen said.
Markakis doubled with one out in the seventh, giving the Orioles a season high six doubles. Pearce singled him to third. It was Pearce’s fourth hit and Markakis scored on Jones’ sacrifice fly. Pearce stole second, Nelson Cruz was walked intentionally, and left-hander Neal Cotts was brought in to face Chris Davis, who singled to score Pearce to make it 5-2.
Pearce agrees the Orioles are bonding without Machado.
“Looks like we are. We’re relying in some people and people are stepping up. We’re pitching, we’re hitting, we’re having timely hitting. We’re finding ways to get it done,” Pearce said.
NOTES: It was the Orioles’ first four-game sweep since Aug. 22-25, 2011 at Minnesota and the first at home since Apr. 4-7, 2008 against Seattle. … The Orioles won without hitting a homer for the first time since Apr. 26. … They stole four bases for the first time this season. … Dylan Bundy’s start in Frederick was rained out. … Alfredo Aceves, who was with the Orioles for most of spring training, was suspended 50 games for violating MLB’s drug policy. … The Orioles open a three-game series with Boston on Friday, Miguel Gonzalez (4-5, 4.56) faces Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92) at 1:35 p.m. … Rain delays at home games now total 11 hours, five minutes.