On Sunday the O's orchestrated their fourth straight comeback, erasing a three-run deficit to beat the Nationals, 4-3, and finish off a sweep in the Battle of the Beltways. Miguel Tejada delivered a game-winning single and the bullpen pitched three scoreless innings -- capped by Alfredo Simon's ninth save in 10 chances -- before 22,951 at Camden Yards.
"Another good effort by the club," interim manager Juan Samuel said. "We've seen basically the same kind of ballgame here for the last three days. The team is not quitting, coming back from being down. So it's very nice. Guys are feeling good about that. We're certainly enjoying it."
Baltimore came back from a three-run hole on Thursday against Florida and from deficits of five and six runs, respectively, in the first two games against Washington. Those wins marked the first time since 1971 that a Major League team beat the same opponent on consecutive days after trailing by five runs or more. Sunday's victory gave Baltimore its second sweep of the season and extended its winning streak to a season-high four games.
"For these three games, we don't quit. We don't give up," starter Jeremy Guthrie said. "I think we've done that all season, but to have these three comebacks -- those are big wins for any ballclub, especially for us, the way we've struggled."
The streak has done more than just improve the club's record to 22-52. It's the way they've done it and the confidence it's built that has brought a buzz back to the O's clubhouse.
"Guys are just feeding off each other," Samuel added. "Hitting is contagious as we all know. Guys are starting to swing the bat, and guys are picking each other up."
A perfect example came in the eighth inning. Julio Lugo gave the O's a chance to take the lead with a one-out double, but during Corey Patterson's ensuing at-bat he was picked off by Nationals catcher Wil Nieves.
"That is just not a smart play, and Lugo knows it," Samuel said. "He's trying to help the club win, but that is just not something we want to try in that situation."
Lugo's mistake proved costly as Patterson smacked a double to right that would have scored the go-ahead run, but thankfully for the O's, Tejada had his back. He erased their fears of a blown chance with a single that plated Patterson.
"I know it's a situation that I don't have to try to do too much. I don't need to hit a home run," Tejada said of the game-winning at-bat. "I know I have [the] fastest guy on the team at second. I just tried to get a base hit."
Nationals starter Luis Atilano had faced the minimum through his first four innings, but the O's comeback started with one out in the fifth. Luke Scott lined a double to left that sparked a string of four hits and three runs. Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Scott Moore all hit the first pitch they saw from Atilano in the inning. Jones, who extended his hitting streak to eight games, drove in Scott with another double to left, and Wieters moved him to third with a base hit to center.
But that wasn't the worst of it for Washington. After Moore's single drove in Jones, Nationals second baseman Adam Kennedy committed the team's Major League-leading 68th error, and his eighth of the season. Lugo grounded to third and Kennedy got Moore at second, but he threw the double-play ball wide of first baseman Mike Morse, allowing Wieters to score the game-tying run.
"Over the last week, guys have started hitting all at the same time," said Moore, whose hard slide at second contributed to Kennedy's error. "Our pitchers go out every night and battle, for a little while, we were having trouble putting runs on the board for them. So it always feels good to put runs on the board."
Tejada's RBI was all the Orioles needed thanks to a bullpen that has been lights-out during the four-game winning streak. They have allowed just one run in 16 2/3 innings over the stretch. Jason Berken pitched a perfect seventh inning, but Will Ohman got into trouble in the eighth. Kennedy and Ryan Zimmerman tallied back-to-back singles off him to lead off the inning, but Ohman struck out Adam Dunn and David Hernandez came on to fan Josh Willingham and Roger Bernadina on three pitches each.
"Juan used [the bullpen] real well, and matched them up good," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "They did a great job. It's a situation where we just didn't get them. Sometimes you feel like you missed pitches to hit and didn't take advantage of them. But they made a lot of good pitches."
The same can be said of Guthrie, who started out strong with a 1-2-3 first inning, despite having allowed 11 of his 51 runs this season in the first frame. He walked three batters in the next two innings and his fourth walk to begin the fourth proved costly. One out later Willingham tripled over the head of an outstretched Jones to plate the game's first run. Bernadina followed with a blast to left field to put the Orioles in their three-run hole, but Guthrie settled down and went on to finish six innings for the 15th time in 16 starts. He snapped a string of three-straight non-quality starts with the effort and gave the O's bats the chance they needed.
"If you look around, you see guys around you that are excited to hit, and ready to hit," Guthrie said. "They are doing phenomenal things, whatever they are doing it's working. When you are down six and five and three, and win all those games, that changes your mentality -- knowing that you always have a chance to win the game, instead of they score a couple and it's over."