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BAL@ATL: Reynolds crushes a two-run homer to left

ATLANTA -- A night removed from hitting a pair of homers that he dubbed a waste, Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds made sure this one counted.

After watching a three-run lead dissipate -- and with the threat of their sixth consecutive loss hanging in the balance -- Reynolds gave an erratic Orioles offense what they've sorely lacked: a meaningful late-game RBI.

Reynolds clobbered Braves reliever Scott Proctor's 1-0 pitch two outs into the seventh inning for a two-run, game-changing shot that gave a struggling Orioles club just enough to squeak out Sunday's sweep-avoiding 5-4 win at Turner Field.

"It feels good, obviously," Reynolds said of the homer, which extended his own team lead in the process. "[But] we never should have been in that situation. I had a runner on third my first three at-bats [and] punched out twice. Should have at least picked those guys up. But we were lucky enough to hold them when we did."

The O's victory -- which boasted a career-high five hits from Nick Markakis -- handed Atlanta its first loss in six contests, and ended Baltimore's Interleague Play with a 7-11 record. But getting there was hardly smooth sailing, as the Orioles surrendered a three-run lead, going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and had to sweat out the final verdict up until closer Kevin Gregg struck out a disgruntled Chipper Jones.

"It definitely feels like we fight and claw to get a win," said rookie starter Zach Britton, who hit a solo homer and scored twice, but exited after just five-plus innings.

"I think a lot of that has to do with the starting pitching, too. Today I felt like I threw really well, had some of my best stuff through five. In the sixth inning, you give them some momentum by walking a guy [and then] giving up a hit. So, I feel like it's more we let teams back in the game and then we have to fight and claw the rest of the way to scrap out a win."

"It [was] a little nail biting," added Reynolds of the high-wire act leading up to the Orioles' 36th win. "It didn't help that it was scorching hot and 100 percent humidity out there. Yeah, it takes a toll on you a little bit, but when we can come out on top like we did today, it feels good."

Reynolds, who also drove in a run with a third-inning sacrifice fly, has certainly given the Orioles something to feel good about lately. He has hit four homers in as many games and finished the three-game series 3-for-9 with three homers, three runs scored and six RBIs.

"He's a big old boy up there, and when he gets a hold of one, it usually goes a long ways," said Markakis, who chipped in with an RBI double and a key outfield assist.

"They were feeding him those fastballs; he can hit fastballs, definitely," Britton added. "That's always good when you are pitching to know that he's locked in. You are going to see some fireworks."

Britton added to the power party with his first career home run, sending Braves starter Brandon Beachy's 2-1 pitch into the right-field stands for a third-inning leadoff shot. The 23-year-old Britton was similarly impressive on the mound early on, escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth by getting Jason Heyward to ground into an inning-ending double play. But he wouldn't be so lucky in the sixth, exiting after three batters in favor of reliever Jim Johnson, and ending the afternoon with three earned runs on six hits and three walks.

"I just kept falling behind guys, not able to make those adjustments," said Britton, "And I feel like the good pitchers make those adjustments when they are getting tired."

Johnson -- who had allowed just two earned runs over a 25 1/3-inning stretch -- was charged with a run in the sixth inning, but made sure Reynolds' homer held up.

After getting two quick outs to start the seventh, Johnson was helped by a stellar defensive play from Markakis to keep Atlanta off the board. Brian McCann sent Johnson's offering off the right-field fence -- inches shy of a home run -- and Markakis barehanded the ball on a bounce and fired it to J.J. Hardy to nab McCann at second base.

"It kind of brought his whole day together," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Markakis' throw. "That might have been as important as his five hits."

Reliever Koji Uehara pitched around a leadoff walk and two hits in the eighth, and Gregg got a pair of groundouts before striking Jones out looking on a full-count pitch.

"I know they're balls," Jones said of Gregg's last two pitches, both of which caused him to try to trot down the first-base line and get a walk. "I've been here 18 years. I know what balls and strikes are. I know when guys are trying to pitch around me. [Home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger] can stare me down all he wants. He made two bad calls."

There wasn't that type of attitude in the Orioles' clubhouse, as the team got ready to board a plane to Texas with a win -- and a collective sigh of relief.

"It's been a frustrating time for our guys," Showalter said. "A lot of things usually happen this time of year when you got the break coming. Through my experience, it seems like every year it can be a real snowball at this time of year if you don't stay on top of things." Comments