Orioles survive close call against Nationals to keep historic sweep streak alive

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals
Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals / Greg Fiume/GettyImages

As Joey Meneses' 12th inning flyball descended into right fielder Ryan McKenna's waiting glove, Orioles' fans could finally breathe. The Orioles' 7-6, 12-inning victory over the Nationals extended their historic streak of not being swept during the regular season to 103 straight series, good enough for the third longest such streak of all time.

To be fair, the streak is as impressive as it is somewhat random. Certainly, such a streak means the Orioles have played well enough to avoid a sweep since May 2022 - a three-game sweep in Detroit one week before Adley Rutschman was recalled. But all the streak really shows is the Orioles are a very good team that has not lost every game in a series in nearly two years. At its core, the streak means little more than the Baltimore Ravens' streak of 24 straight wins in the preseason.

But that does not stop it from being fun. And let's be honest: the sweep streak only increased the excitement of Wednesday night's 7-6, extra-inning victory over Washington. Indeed, when the Nationals beat the Orioles 3-0 on Tuesday night, the Orioles were very much in danger of losing the streak (yes, even a two-game series sweep counts as a sweep).

Orioles Sweep Streak tested against upstart Nationals

Coming into the game, the pitching matchup of Kyle Bradish (making only his second start since returning from an elbow injury) against young lefthander Mitchell Parker of the Nationals appeared to favor the Orioles. Drama in the back and forth affair started early. In the bottom of the first, Bradish worked around first and second and nobody out to escape without allowing a run, and in the top of the second, the Nationals cut down Jordan Westburg at the plate trying to score on a Colton Cowser double. Washington scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Trey Lipscomb. Could this really be the night the streak ended?

Anthony Santander lined a two-out solo home run to left to tie the game in the fourth. With Bradish and Parker locked in a pitcher's duel through five innings, Gunnar Henderson broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the sixth inning with a home run to right center that fooled everyone - the announcers, the camera operators, and Nats right fielder Eddie Rosario. The Orioles added some insurance in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Colton Cowser, and Danny Coulombe, Yennier Cano, and Cionel Perez helped preserve the lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Orioles fans went into the bottom of the ninth feeling good. Yes, Crag Kimbrel had struggled of late, but it appeared the Orioles would dodge yet another bullet and continue the sweep streak. Not so fast. After Kimbrel retired the first two batters on a pop up and lineout, he proceeded to allow a solo home run and two walks, putting the winning run on base. When Keegin Akin allowed an RBI single to Nationals star CJ Abrams, it represented not only another blown save for Kimbrel, but a sense of dread that the streak could end at 102 series.

Akin got Luis Garcia to bounce out, and after a scoreless tenth inning, the Orioles retook the lead on a two-run home run by Ryan Mountcastle. Exhale.

But again, not so fast.

Working his second inning, Albert Suarez allowed an RBI double to Ildemaro Vargas and game-tying sacrifice fly to Jacob Young. Only a deep fly out from Abrams kept the game tied and, for the time being, the streak alive. Lots of drama for a Wednesday night game in May.

The Orioles again broke the tie in the 12th on a wild sequence involving a Jorge Mateo RBI single, and a comedy of errors eliciting memories of "Angels in the Outfield" that put Mateo on third with no outs. Mateo scored on a wild pitch, and the Orioles went to the bottom of the 12th trying, yet again, to preserve a two-run lead.

And this time - by the skin of their teeth - they did. Jacob Webb allowed the ghost runner to score on an RBI double by Garcia, but recovered to strike out Nick Senzel and coax fly balls from Jesse Winker and Meneses to end it.

The Orioles and Nationals split the two game series, and the streak grew to 103. The Orioles open up a three-game series against the Diamondbacks on Friday, and can enjoy their glorious, impressive, and somewhat random sweep-free streak for at least a few more days.