The Baltimore Orioles have won two games in a row and inched their way back to one game below .500. The last two victories, however, have not come easy. On Thursday, the Orioles took a 5-4 win from the Seattle Mariners with an eighth inning run. Last night’s 8-5 win over the Miami Marlins was more difficult than the final score would indicate, as the Orioles dug their way out of an early 3-0 hole.
In close games like these past two have been, there are often clutch, timely hits or strikeouts that change the outcome of the game. The Orioles have certainly had plays like those — Steve Pearce‘s grand slam on Thursday or Tommy Hunter‘s strikeout of Marcell Ozuna with men on second and third last night come to mind — but behind these big plays are smaller, under the radar plays that the average fan may not even notice.
Pearce gets all the credit for hitting that grand slam on Thursday, but it may not have happened if not for Jimmy Paredes busting it down the line to beat out a double play. If Paredes was not running hard, which is not something I have ever seen him do, the Mariners likely get out of that inning without Pearce putting four on the board with a single swing.
Later in that game, Pearce was also involved in another potentially game altering play. With Chris Davis on first and a full count to Pearce, Buck Showalter decided to gamble and start Davis on the pitch. If Pearce strikes out there, Davis is likely thrown out at second and the rally is short circuited. Pearce did exactly what he needed to do and put the ball in play. It goes down in the books as a groundout to the pitcher, but if Pearce struck out, J.J. Hardy likely never gets the chance to drive in Davis with the game-winning run.
Last night’s game turned for the Orioles in a four-run sixth inning. That inning was fueled by two big sacrifice bunts that both came with two strikes. J.J. Hardy got a bunt down with Chris Davis and Travis Snider on base. Henderson Alvarez airmailed the throw to third, and the big inning was off and running. Later in the inning, Tyler Wilson got a sacrifice bunt down to put two more in scoring position. Alejandro De Aza would ultimately score on an infield single by Jimmy Paredes (this guy is everywhere!). Paredes’ comebacker up the middle glanced off Steve Chisek. The Marlins could not get the hustling Paredes at first.
These are the kinds of plays that have helped make the Orioles astoundingly successful in close games since Buck Showalter took the helm. A manager may not have a huge impact on a batter’s performance at the plate or a pitcher’s ability to throw strikes. However, the manager’s influence is reflected in how hard his team is willing to play and in its ability to do the little things. The Orioles have done the little things the past two days, and it has resulted in two victories.
Follow Josh Sadlock on Twitter: @JoshSadlock