For the second straight game, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Washington Nationals in another close game, this time, 6-5.
They are now 27-14, and lead the American League East still by two games. There was another huge crowd for the game in Washington - well over 42,000 - and one has to think if both teams can stay the their respective divisional races, this area could be a hot bed of baseball. The Orioles have taken the first two games in the first go-round of 2012's 'Battle of the Beltways'.
The duo of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis each hit two-run homers - in the third, and fifth respectively - to help the Orioles win their fourth straight in a row, and ninth on the road. Robertt Andino has a two run-double in the second inning; however, the Baltimore offense didn't do much after the fifth inning.
Jones is on another level now and I don't know what to say or think. You saw flashes of brilliance during his first four years, but now he's putting it all together. He is a huge part of this team, obviously, and it looks like that he can carry the team on his shoulders if needed. Josh Hamilton seems to have gotten all the attention this month, but the national media should perhaps focus their glare on Jones now. Plus, it is good to see Nick Markakis coming around and getting his power stroke back.
They sent Washington starter Ross Detwiler to the showers early, as he gave up six runs in five innings. His reaction to Markakis' homer - if you can find it on tape - is priceless. He would take the loss.
The Orioles’ Jason Hammel allowed four runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings to earn the win.
Hammel stymied Washington until the fifth inning as Steve Lombardozzi’s RBI-single gave them their first run on the game. They would score three more in the sixth inning to come within two of Baltimore’s lead, 6-4, as Rick Ankiel plated in a run with an RBI-single, and then Carlos Maldonado drove in another run with a groundout. Roger Bernadina followed up with a single to plate Maldonado.
The Nationals added some more intrigue towards the end of the game. Ryan Zimmerman’s solo two-out home run - his second of 2012 - in the bottom of ninth off Baltimore closer Jim Johnson sent the ballpark into frenzy. That brought Washington within one run of tying the contest, 6-5; however, Adam LaRoche was retired on strikes and the game ended.
Johnson would get the save, as dramatic as the final frame turned out to be. It was his 15th save of the season.
Where I was sitting - in right field with my youngest brother and his girlfriend - it was a fair mix of both Nationals and Orioles fans. In the ninth inning, however, we were kind of nervous seeing Johnson serve up the home run to Ryan Zimmerman, but the game eventually ended. It was an ungodly beautiful night for baseball, almost perfect, and it is surreal to see the Orioles winning as they are. Every fan I spoke to who rooted for the Orioles are happy to see them doing well, but are cautiously optimistic.
There were no delusional fans I chatted with hoping to reserve playoff tickets right now; however, if the Orioles can stick around the divisional lead and avoid a swoon, things will change for sure. We all remember 2005, but things are very much different now.
Today's game is a must-see, as Wei-Yin Chen tries to stay undefeated as the Orioles face young uber-ace Stephen Strasburg for the first time.