But in its attempt to make a second consecutive postseason, this Orioles’ offense has often proven to be one dimensional: When the homers disappear, in many cases, so do the runs.
It’s not just whom the Orioles beat Sunday, but how.
For the first time since April 26, 2011, the Orioles scored runs on three sacrifice flies — only the third time since 2000 they have accomplished that feat. Only four times this season have the Orioles had at least two sacrifice flies. And they’ve won all four games.
“I think maybe if there is something you can criticize about us, we’ve maybe struggled at times with runners at third base and less than two outs getting that guy in,” said left fielder Nate McLouth, who had a homer and a double. “To have three sac flies, they may not look pretty but they are effective and they are very important.”
The Orioles built on three productive outs — one from Matt Wieters and two from Manny Machado — to take a 6-1 lead by the fourth inning while chasing highly touted rookie Sonny Gray (1-2).
The Orioles picked up 13 hits and two walks and left just four runners on base.
“Our guys, there are so many things today I was so proud of,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “The energy, a lot of blood flow working there.”
The Orioles combined the heady, small-ball play with their usual brute force. They hit three home runs — J.J. Hardy’s 23rd of the season, McLouth’s ninth and Nick Markakis’s ninth.
Markakis’s eighth-inning blast was particularly inspiring. It was his first home run since June 24. In the fourth inning, Markakis doubled, which snapped his career-worst skid of 31 games without an extra-base hit.
“I’m just glad I hit the ball hard,” Markakis said. “Wherever it goes, sometimes you have no control over it.”
The club’s big offensive day made life easier on starter Scott Feldman (4-3), who lasted just five innings, allowing only one run despite having to pitch out of trouble three times.
He walked the game’s first hitter, Coco Crisp, on four pitches, balked him to second and then allowed a two-out RBI single to Alberto Callaspo. Feldman didn’t break again after that.
“It wasn’t the prettiest outing. It was a battle from the get-go. You never feel good only going five, but in a case like today we were able to get the win,” Feldman said. “Any time you get a win and keep the damage off the board, you have to feel good about it.”
The Orioles now go on the road for nine games in Boston, New York and Cleveland — three teams also fighting for the playoffs.
With five games left in August, the Orioles understand what is at stake. Record-wise, they are just one game behind where they were through 129 games last season, yet this year has taken on a different feel.
More has been made of their flaws — the inability to manufacture runs, the cracks in their bullpen — than the superlatives: a majors-best defense and power output.
Soon, though, none of it matters.
“If we’re going to do this, it’s right there, staring you in the face every night,” Showalter said. “Going into the season, it’s about September. You grind like hell for February, April, May, June, July and August to have a chance to roll the dice the last five weeks.
“And that’s where we are.”
— Baltimore Sun