Tonight's Battle of the Beltways featured a pitcher's duel between Jake Arrieta and Edwin Jackson that stretched into extra innings and a go-ahead home run from a maligned outfielder often accused of having noodle arms. The result was the Orioles 8th straight win on the road that pushed them to 26-14 on the year, two games in front of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East.
The O's got off to a fast start in the top of the first inning against Nats starter Edwin Jackson, with Xavier Avery working a walk and Nick Markakis hitting a one-out double to put runners on second and third for cleanup hitter Adam Jones. Jones hit a ball right back to Jackson. It ricocheted off of Jackson's foot and flew straight up in to the air. Avery scored and Markakis moved to third, but a GIDP from the slumping Matt Wieters ended the rally.
After that single run scored, Jackson settled in and the Orioles weren't able to solve him again. Ultimately he pitched eight innings and didn't allow another run. Arrieta was just as good Jackson, and for much of the game it looked like 1 run would be enough for him. Going into the sixth inning, Arrieta had given up just four singles and one walk and never allowed more than one baserunner in an inning. But starting off the sixth inning, Arrieta threw a sinker to Ian Desmond that he blasted over the left field wall to tie the game 1-1. It really wasn't a bad pitch, Desmond just got a good swing on it. Arrieta finished the inning and also completed a scoreless seventh inning before being taken out for a pinch hitter. His final pitching line was 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K.
Jackson was replaced in the 9th inning by Tyler Clippard, who shut the Orioles hitters down just as Jackson had done the entire game. For the Orioles, Darren O'Day and Troy Patton pitched in relief in the 8th and 9th innings and were perfect. Because of the fantastic pitching and/or horrible hitting (however you choose to see it), the Orioles were once again going to extra innings. It feels like all they do is play extra innings, doesn't it?
Sean Burnett walked both Wilson Betemit and Bill Hall in the top of the 10th, but the Orioles squandered that chance. Then the increasingly impressive Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th, sending the game even further into extras.
But in the 11th inning, after J.J. Hardy hit a ball to the warning track in center field, Markakis struck a blow for noodle-armed outfielders everywhere with a no-doubt home run into the second deck in right field. Hooray, Nick! The HR put the O's up 2-1 and put them in the position to win. But it wouldn't be easy.
With Jim Johnson having pitched three straight days, Buck Showalter turned to Pedro Strop to close out the game. Strop did not have good control tonight, and he hit the first batter of the inning. Desmond came to bat and tried to bunt the runner into scoring position. Strop's pitches were all over the place and Desmond kept bunting at them and missing until he had two strikes, at which point he hit a ball hard to first. Chris Davis was playing shallow and made a very nifty play to start the 3-6-3 double play. A nice job by the defensively challenged 1B.
Roger Bernadina stood in as the Nationals last hope, but was no match for Strop, who struck him out on three pitches! Ball game! Oh, wait. Just kidding. The ball got away from Wieters and Bernadina reached base, bringing up Ryan Zimmerman. Despite the Orioles winning ways, I still thought, "here comes the walk off." But Zimmerman didn't walk off, he singled up the middle to put the tying run on second and the winning run on third for the hot hitting Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche wasn't that hot, though, and he grounded the ball right back to Strop, who threw him out to end the game. O's win!