WASHINGTON –- In the last 15 games, the Orioles have put themselves back in contention for the final wild-card spot. On September 8, the Orioles had lost 15 of 18, and fallen seven games under .500.
Sixteen days later, the Orioles have won 11 of 15 and moved back to .500 for the first time since Aug. 26.
They’re still 3 ½ games behind Houston and also trail Minnesota and Los Angeles with 10 games to play.
On Thursday, the Orioles pulled off a three-game sweep against the Nationals, needing a long two-run home run by Matt Wieters in the eighth for a 5-4 win before an announced crowd of 28,456 at Nationals Park.
“I still like our storyline, especially when you put a little chip on the shoulder, and people keep counting them out. There’s a lot of passion and energy out there,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Back when the team was reeling, Showalter said offhandedly the Orioles might just win 15 straight. Since then, they’ve lost only four.
“You punch back. Our guys have been punching back. They’re refusing to give in, still trying to get to our goal that we started in Sarasota a long time ago,” Showalter said.
There were no histrionics, no repeat of the tension that enveloped the ballpark on Wednesday night when Jonathan Papelbon hit Machado and was tossed from the game.
“I don’t know if chip is the right word. They certainly helped us make it bigger last night,” Showalter said. “But I think after what went down last night, I think it really helped our guys really come in with extra focus to try to win a ballgame.”
Washington (78-74) scored two runs in the seventh off Chaz Roe to take a 4-3 lead.
Steve Pearce began the eighth with a single off Blake Treinen (2-4), and Matt Wieters hit a long home run to center, his seventh, and the Orioles led 5-4.
Wieters had just two RBIs since Aug. 9, but even though he jokingly said that he might have gotten jammed, his homer was measured at 445 feet. “I was trying to get something up. I missed one earlier in that at-bat, then I was fortunate to get another one up. Like I said, if he’s down then it’s a lot tougher to get a ball elevated off of him,” Wieters said.
Gerardo Parra led off the first with a double off Tanner Roark. He scored on Machado’s single.
In the fourth, Wieters singled to lead off, and Jonathan Schoop hit his 15th home run to center for a 3-0 lead.
Tyler Wilson allowed three hits and two walks in the first four innings. In the fifth, he gave up two runs when Wilson Ramos and Trea Turner led off with singles. Ramos scored on Anthony Rendon’s sacrifice fly. Yunel Escobar’s RBI single scored Turner, and the Orioles lead was 3-2.
Wilson allowed two runs on six hits in six innings.
Ramos’ 14th home run of the year off Chaz Roe (4-3) in the seventh tied it at 3.
Matt den Dekker walked, and Rendon singled against Mike Wright (3-5). Yunel Escobar’s doubled scored den Dekker, but Rendon was out at the plate, and Washington led 4-3.
After the Nationals took a two-run lead, Jayson Werth sharply lined to third to end the seventh, and Machado forcefully pounded his glove.
“I think Manny is a little frustrated. He loves to win and the fact that winning three games is the best ‘back at ya,’” Showalter said.
Brad Brach allowed a double to Clint Robinson to start the eighth. Pinchrunner Wilmer Difo was thrown out at third on Ian Desmond’s bunt.
The Orioles hope to have Adam Jones back on Friday when they begin a three-game series with the Red Sox. An MRI on his back showed nothing alarming, and he remains day-to-day.
Zach Britton, who wasn’t available for this series, hopes to play catch on Friday. Britton has a strained left lat.
Showalter is trying to get by without his All-Star closer, and with a combination of Brach, O’Day and Mychal Givens plus perhaps some unexpected contributions, hopes to stay competitive.
“We’ve been a sum of the parts team,” Showalter said.
Darren O’Day worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save, his third in as many days with Britton sidelined.
“It was definitely unexpected. I couldn't imagine it would happen. Three saves means three wins, so it's obviously really exciting,” O’Day said.
Will there be a fourth straight save?
“We'll see tomorrow. We'll find out about 5:15 when I play catch,” O’Day said.
NOTES: Kevin Gausman (3-6, 4.26) faces Rich Hill (1-0, 1.93) as the Orioles play the first of three in Boston. … The Orioles are at .500 for the 16th time this season.