FINAL: Orioles 3, Nationals 2
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Round 1 of this year's Battle of the Beltways brought the season's largest crowd to Camden Yards. And it brought a tight, tense ballgame to downtown Baltimore, decided late by bullpens and big at-bats.
In the end, the Orioles' relief corps and big bats came through when the Nationals' could not. Jonathan Schoop's 2-out, 2-strike homer off Tanner Roark in the bottom of the ninth capped Baltimore's comeback and sent the Nats walking off the field in disappointment. Roark had looked dominant to that point in the ninth, striking out both Jimmy Paredes and J.J. Hardy and coming within one strike of doing the same to Schoop. But with one swing, the Orioles came back to win for the first time in 37 tries this season when trailing after seven innings.
Gio Gonzalez and Chris Tillman were effective but not exactly efficient, each needing at least 100 pitches to complete six innings. Adam Jones' leadoff homer in the fourth represented the lone run off Gonzalez, while the Nationals got a pair of big, 2-out RBI hits from Tyler Moore and Michael Taylor off Tillman to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Aaron Barrett, returning from a 4-week DL stint, came through big with three straight outs in the seventh to protect the lead, but the Nats couldn't hold it in the eighth. Casey Janssen allowed an infield single to Chris Parmalee, then Matt Thornton served up an RBI-double to Matt Wieters that tied the game, brought the crowd back to life and set the stage for the dramatic finish.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: With so many big names now on the DL, the Nationals have to get contributions from a variety of sources now, and they have to get quality at-bats with runners in scoring position. They got a couple of those Friday night from the last two guys in their batting order: Moore and Taylor. With his team trailing 2-1 and two out in the fifth, Moore sent a double down the right-field line, bringing home Clint Robinson and tying the game. Moments later, Taylor hammered the first pitch he saw past a diving Manny Machado at third base, bringing Moore home with the go-ahead run. Two at-bats, both with two outs and a man in scoring position, both producing runs.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: He didn't have a single clean inning, but Gonzalez got the job done. His changeup was pretty effective against right-handed batters, leading to a pair of Steve Pearce strikeouts. He also fielded four comebackers in a span of five innings. Gonzalez's lone mistake was a hanging first-pitch curveball to Adam Jones, who sent the ball flying to left-center for a leadoff homer in the fourth. He did come through with some big pitches late, including a double-play grounder off Manny Machado's bat to end the fifth and a strikeout of Nolan Reimold to end the sixth. Sitting at 100 pitches, Gonzalez was sent back to the mound for the seventh to turn around switch-hitter Jimmy Paredes but wound up walking him and calling it a night. That proved historically significant: It snapped the Nationals' pitching staff's streak of consecutive games issuing two or fewer walks at 20, the longest streak in baseball since 1900.
KEY STAT: Despite the fact 96 percent of his plate appearances have come while batting first, eighth or ninth, Michael Taylor now has 30 RBI in 223 at-bats this season.
UP NEXT: Jordan Zimmermann, whose wife Amy gave birth to the couple's second child Friday morning, will return from the paternity leave list to start Saturday's 7:05 p.m. game. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez starts for Baltimore.