BALTIMORE – The Orioles haven’t gone on a long winning streak. With five weeks to go in the regular season and a host of games to play against difficult opponents, they’ll have to go on a lengthy roll.
They hope Sunday was its start.
With timely hits and aggressive baserunning, the Orioles easily beat the Oakland Athletics 10-3 before 33,820 at Oriole Park.
The Orioles (70-59) took two of three from the Athletics (72-57) and moved to within two games of the final Wild Card spot.
“Coming in today, there’s not many days when I go ‘We need to play well today and see if we can get a W.’ This was one of those days,” manager Buck Showalter.
Play well they did.
“So many things today I was so proud of,” Showalter said.
The Orioles had three sacrifice flies. Twice runners moved to second. Five of their first six hits were to the opposite field, and late in the game, they added three home runs by J.J. Hardy, Nate McLouth and Nick Markakis.
Markakis had a double, which was his first extra-base hit since July 19, and his first homer since June 24.
“I’m just glad I hit the ball hard,” Markakis said.
With a difficult nine-game trip to Boston, New York and Cleveland at hand, the Orioles are going to have to play more consistently than they have at any time this season. Sunday was a good start.
“The reason those games are so important is because each game is essentially a two-game swing in the standings. So with teams ahead of you, and even teams close by or right behind you, those are huge because if you win the game, they lose a game plus you win a game. It’s a two-game swing, so they are real important,” McLouth said.
Scott Feldman (4-3) made it through a rocky five innings. He walked Oakland’s Coco Crisp to start the game. He moved to second on Feldman’s balk and scored on a two-out single by Alberto Callaspo.
In the first inning, Manny Machado singled with one out, Chris Davis followed with a single to left, and Adam Jones singled to right to score Machado. Matt Wieters’ sacrifice fly to center scored Davis, and the Orioles led 2-1.
The Orioles scored three runs off Sonny Gray (1-2) in the second. Hardy led off with a double. Ryan Flaherty walked, and Hardy scored on Brian Roberts’ single. Flaherty and Roberts moved up a base on McLouth’s fly to center, and Flaherty scored on Machado’s sacrifice fly. Davis’ single scored Roberts, and it was 5-1.
Feldman loaded the bases with two outs in the third on two walks and a hit batsman, but got out of the inning on Seth Smith’s fly to left.
Roberts started the fourth with a walk. McLouth’s ground-rule double moved him to third, and Roberts scored on Machado’s second sacrifice fly of the game, the Orioles’ third.
Gray allowed six runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out three.
In the fifth, Crisp and Jed Lowrie singled to start the inning. Josh Donaldson hit into a double play and struck out Brandon Moss to end the inning.
Feldman allowed one run on three hits. He walked four, hit a batter, committed a balk and struck out six.
Hardy’s 23rd home run in the sixth gave the Orioles a 7-1 lead.
T.J. McFarland replaced Feldman to start the sixth. He threw two perfect innings until he allowed a single to Lowrie and two-run home run to Donaldson in the eighth. It was Donaldson’s 19th.
Markakis led off the eighth with his home run and McLouth hit a two-run home run, his ninth for a 10-3 lead.
“When we’re all clicking, we’re all on the same page, we’re a pretty tough lineup to go through. We just got to stay within ourselves, have good at-bats, hit the ball hard. We hit the ball hard today. The biggest thing is we hit the ball where they weren’t,” Markakis said.
The Orioles have a day off on Monday, and Tuesday it’s on to Boston for a three-game series against the Red Sox.
“It's been on. Trust me, it's been on. Some people look at the schedule and go hmm. I haven't read it or listened to it because I choose not to. You can look at that as a positive or a negative. We're looking at it as a positive. If we're going to do this, it's right there, staring you in the face every night,” Showalter said.
“Going into the season, it's about September. You grind like hell for February, March, April, May, June, July and August to have a chance to roll the dice the last five weeks, and that's where we are.”