If you ask Buck Showalter and a handful of the players, the most important part of yesterday was a morning visit to Walter Reed Medical Center and the USO Warrior and Family Center in Bethesda, MD. Many teams that come to play the Nationals make trips there, and the O’s have stopped in many times in the past during the Battle of the Beltways. The O’s came away impressed by the wounded soldiers that they saw there, as well as with the level of care that they were seeing at Walter Reed. Again, that was probably the most important part of the day, hands down – and then they played the game.
Anyone who saw the game probably came away with the idea that Kevin Gausman struggled. And while he certainly didn’t have his best stuff, he’s credited with a quality start. Gausman’s line: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K. One area where Gausman got in trouble was throwing strike one…in that he didn’t do it very often. He got behind in counts and he nibbled at the strike zone, although there were times when it might have been fair to wonder where the strike zone was actually located. But in fact, Gausman allowed a run here and there and while he bent on Washington’s offense, he never broke.
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second when catcher Wilson Ramos homered to right center. But the Baltimore Orioles battled back, in what would be theme for the night; Caleb Joseph wasn’t to be outdone, and he sent a solo homer of his own over the left field fence in the third. However as I said, Gausman bent but he didn’t break; Ian Desmond would put Washington ahead 2-1 in the last of the inning as he scored a run from third on a GIDP. Ramos would come up again in the fourth and do the exact same thing. Washington led 3-1 and Gausman seemed to be struggling, however the fact that he traded those two runs for four outs ended up being huge.
Nick Markakis brought the O’s back to within 3-2 with a fifth inning solo blast, his second in as many games. J.J. Hardy led off the seventh with a double, and he was promptly doubled home by Ryan Flaherty which tied the game at three. After Joseph sacrificed Flaherty to third, Buck Showalter sent Delmon Young to pinch-hit for Gausman. A moment later, the Baltimore Orioles had an abrupt 4-3 lead when Young sent an RBI-single to center field.
Later in that seventh inning the Orioles had the bases juiced after a couple of short singles. Adam Jones came to the plate and sent an RBI-single to left field and giving the Birds a 5-3 lead. An inning later Caleb Joseph came to the plate with two runners in scoring position, and he sent a two-RBI single to center field.
The O’s of course went to the bullpen after the sixth inning since they pinch-hit for Gausman, who at that point was in line for the win. It’s tough to write about Orioles games at this point and not talk about how solid the bullpen is. Brad Brach was solid for two innings, which bridged the gap to Darren O’Day who pitched the ninth inning. He retired Washington 1-2-3, giving the Orioles a well-earned victory. Overall, the Baltimore Orioles won the Battle of the Beltways in 2014 three games to one.
The “beltway champions” now head to Toronto for an all-important three-game series. Bud Norris will take to the bump tonight for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Mark Buehrle. With Toronto idle and the Orioles winning last night, the Birds now have a solid four-game lead over Toronto in the AL East. So even if the Orioles somehow get swept, they’re guaranteed to leave Canada in first place. Incidentally, last night’s game also provided a victory of a different sort. Teddy Roosevelt got a rare victory in the President’s Race at Nationals Park. For history buffs and Teddy Roosevelt fans such as myself, that’s a big deal!