BALTIMORE—It’s silly to label games as “must win” when 30 still remain to be played. But, after the Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of a three-game series, they fell a season-high four games behind in the American League East.
Sure, the Orioles have mathematically been in the postseason picture in each of their first 132 games, but in the past two weeks, their place got a lot more tenuous.
On Tuesday night, they made sure they’d stay relevant for a while longer by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 before 16,083 at Oriole Park.
With the win, the Orioles (72-60) moved back to within three games of the Blue Jays (75-57) in the American League East.
It was Matt Wieters who broke a 3-all tie in the eighth inning with a two-run home run.
It was Ubaldo Jimenez, who many fans feared would have little chance against a legitimate American League Cy Young Award candidate, J.A. Happ.
Jimenez actually outpitched Happ, and only a two-run home run by Michael Saunders in the seventh prevented him from getting the win.
“It feels really good. It’s something I wanted to do since the beginning of the year. I wasn’t able to but I never give up. I always figure out a way to get up and be there for the team and I’ve been able to be there for him the last two games. Hopefully it keeps going,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez is filling in for Chris Tillman, who is on the disabled list.
“He’s had two good outings in a row in a time of need. Real proud of him. He was solid. He had a lot of pitches could have gone his way, a lot of borderline pitches. He was down in the zone almost the whole game. The one he got up was the home run to Saunders. But he was solid. You can say a lot of different things about things that happened in the game, but none of it means anything if we don’t get that type of start from him,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Jonathan Schoop walked against Jason Grilli (4-2) with two outs in the eighth and then Wieters hit his 12th home run, and the Orioles had a 5-3 lead.
“It’s a big game. We’re going to be playing a lot of teams in the division, so there are going to be a lot of big games. I think the key is to be able to enjoy this one and move on tomorrow. We’ve got to come back and win another one tomorrow,” Wieters said.
Brad Brach (8-2) worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 39th consecutive save.
Brach often seems to be the beneficiary when the Orioles pull off a late-inning win. Is he just in the right place at the right time?
“Some of it is, but most of it is because he’s good. And most of it is we like him in there with the game on the line,” Showalter said. “It’s so hard to be consistently contributing and being there for us as Brad and Zach have been all year. Nothing about the ninth inning is ho-hum either. This is a very good ball club over there and you got to keep your foot on them when you got them down."
RELATED: Orioles great headed to Maryland Hall of Fame
Jimenez lasted one-third of an inning when he last started against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 12. This was much better.
Toronto scored a run in the second when Saunders doubled and scored on Kevin Pillar’s two-out single.
The Orioles scored three in the fifth on Steve Pearce’s 13th home run and Manny Machado’s 32nd, the 100th home run of Machado’s major league career. He’s the youngest Oriole to do so.
"It’s a big number. It’s a huge number. Not a lot of guys have 100. To get to that milestone is something that I’m never going to forget. And just getting this W. Every time I get a milestone or something, (if) it comes out with a W it just makes it a lot better,” Machado said.
“To come out with a W on top of your accomplishments. It’s very humbling. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. It’s not like I’m sitting around, not doing anything. Everyone in here works to get to certain situations and I finally got to one. I reached one, I could knock it out, knock it out of my checklist. Now is a time to keep playing baseball and try to knock out another one off my checklist, which is to try to help this team get somewhere that it hasn’t been in a long time.”
NOTE… Aaron Sanchez (12-2, 2.99) faces Yovani Gallardo (4-6, 5.69) on Wednesday night.