SEATTLE (AP) — Those involved in continuing Baltimore’s late-season surge — whether it’s taking nine, 11 or 18 innings to get the victories — continue to marvel at what the Orioles are accomplishing and the ways they are getting it done.
The Orioles are hanging around the AL East race, surging to the top of the wild-card chase and winning at all hours of the day, night and early morning.
“It’s crazy. I thought we were going to play another 15 or 16 tonight. We were doing dancing in there, stuff like that,” Baltimore starter Joe Saunders said. “It gets to the point where you get comfortable in those situations.”
Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the top of the 11th inning and the Orioles won their 15th straight extra-innings game with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.
A night after the teams played an 18-inning marathon that lasted nearly 6 hours, Jones, the one-time Mariners prospect, gave Baltimore a huge boost in its race with the Yankees for the lead in the AL East. Even with New York sweeping a doubleheader from Toronto on Wednesday, the Orioles stayed just a half-game back in the division race. Additionally, the Orioles moved into the top spot in the AL wild-card race after Oakland was handed a 6-2 loss in Detroit.
According to the Orioles, with information from the Elias Sports Bureau, the 15 straight extra-inning wins is the longest streak since the Cleveland Indians won 17 straight in 1949. Throw in a sweep of Seattle and wins in seven of nine and the Orioles are making plenty of September noise.
“We need the wins. It doesn’t matter who or how, we just need the wins,” Jones said.
Jones’ turned on a 3-2 pitch from Seattle’s Josh Kinney (0-3) and sent his 30th homer into the Baltimore bullpen in left field to finally break a 1-1 tie that had lasted since the fourth inning. Jones became the first Baltimore outfielder to reach 30 homers since Brady Anderson hit 50 in 1996. It was his third career homer against the franchise that drafted the talented center fielder, and then traded him to the Orioles as part of a massive deal that brought pitcher Erik Bedard to Seattle.
Jim Johnson pitched the bottom of the 11th for his major league-leading 45th save. It wasn’t a basic save, though, as Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero started the inning with singles. Johnson quickly rebounded to get Justin Smoak to ground into a 3-6-1 double play.
Michael Saunders walked, but was caught stealing by Taylor Teagarden trying to get into scoring position while pinch-hitter John Jaso never got the bat off his shoulder for the final out.
“I thought they were going to take their chances with Jaso hitting and when he took off I was a little surprised, but I got a good pitch to throw on and it got there in time,” said Teagarden, whose RBI single in the 18th inning the night before proved to be the winning run.
Saunders didn’t second-guess his decision to try and get into scoring position.
“I had to be aggressive in that situation and I had to get to second base,” he said.
Baltimore was only able to reach the 11th thanks to Luis Ayala’s pitching in the bottom of the 10th. Seattle loaded the bases with two outs thanks to walks to Saunders, Trayvon Robinson and Dustin Ackley. Ayala (5-4) was brought in to face Franklin Gutierrez, who hit his fourth homer of the season in the fourth inning to account for Seattle’s only run.
Gutierrez was able to work the count to 3-2, but Ayala came inside and forced a weak pop up to shortstop to end Seattle’s best scoring threat.
Lost in the extra inning drama were the performances of starters Joe Saunders and Felix Hernandez on a night both teams needed a break for their bullpens.
Saunders was the perfect option for the Orioles to have on the mound considering his past success against the Mariners in Seattle. In his previous six starts at Safeco Field, Saunders was 6-0 with a 0.98 ERA. It was just the recipe Baltimore needed with a taxed bullpen that saw seven relievers work in Tuesday night’s game.
Saunders did his part getting through eight innings. He gave up five hits and struck out two. It was just the second time this season — and first since joining the Orioles in August — that Saunders pitched at least eight innings. He had a complete game three-hitter for Arizona against Miami in April.
“You can talk a lot about what happened this game, offensively and what not, but the conversation has to start with the effort that Joe gave us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Hernandez gave up just one run, six hits and struck out eight. The lone run off Seattle’s ace was due to hustle. Chris Davis was running on a 3-2 pitch and scored from first on Mark Reynolds’ single in the fourth inning, sliding across home plate ahead of Jesus Montero’s sweep tag.
Notes: Baltimore swept the Mariners in Seattle for the first time since 1997. … Baltimore prospect Dylan Bundy was recalled from Double-A Bowie on Wednesday. The Orioles needed the extra arm in the bullpen after Tuesday’s 18-inning marathon and the 19-year-old was the choice. … Tuesday’s game was the second-longest in Safeco Field history by innings and the longest by time at 5 hours, 44 minutes. … Baltimore LHP Brian Matusz pitched in the 10th inning less than 24 hours after needing to go to a Seattle hospital seeking treatment for an allergic food reaction.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)