O's ride big inning to series win over Jays
Hendrickson earns victory with 6 1/3 strong innings
BALTIMORE -- If nothing else, the Orioles have avoided an indignity. Baltimore rallied Saturday to earn a 6-3 victory over Toronto, a win that will ensure the Orioles won't finish with 100 losses. Baltimore hadn't reached the century mark since 1988 and has won three straight games to back away from the precipice.
"Well, it certainly is a whole lot more pleasant coming to the ballpark knowing all this other stuff has been put aside," said manager Dave Trembley. "It certainly is fun to win. It's really great to feel like, 'Hey, you just play fundamentals, nothing too fancy, make the routine plays, knock the guy in.' That's a great formula for success."
Just a few days ago, it seemed that 100 losses was a mere formality. The Orioles (63-98) plummeted through September on a 13-game losing streak, a skid that finally ended Thursday night. Baltimore won again Friday after the team announced Trembley would be back next season, creating some drama for the final weekend.
And then, after falling behind early, the Orioles controlled the middle innings and found a way to win. That result gave them their third successive victory -- a streak they hadn't matched since mid-June -- and made sure that they wouldn't join the 1954 and '88 teams as the only squads in franchise history to lose 100 games.
"I think it's definitely important," said veteran Ty Wigginton, who lost 106 games with the 2006 Tampa Bay Rays. "I don't want to be on a team that loses 100 games. I don't want to be a part of that and join the other teams. I know it happens [and] it's part of the game. Ultimately, it doesn't matter unless you're in the postseason."
The Orioles trailed early, but broke the game open with four runs off Scott Richmond in the fourth inning. Wigginton singled in the game-tying run and later came around to score on a fielder's choice. Baltimore used a groundout and a two-out single by Brian Roberts to push ahead 5-3, and Toronto never drew closer than that.
Swingman Mark Hendrickson provided a quality start for the Orioles, holding the Blue Jays (75-86) down long enough for Baltimore to take control of the game. Hendrickson (6-5) allowed two runs in the second inning -- one on a sacrifice fly and one on a balk -- but was able to settle down and pitch into the seventh.
"Hendrickson has done a tremendous job for us starting, and we're so glad he got the win tonight," said Trembley. "He's pitched very well for us, giving us quality starts. I said earlier, he's been three guys in one -- long guy, spot starter, situational matchup. Then we put him back in the starting rotation and he's certainly done a nice job. It's about pitching. And we had some add-on runs. [Cesar] Izturis coming down the stretch here has played every bit as good at any time this year. I think he's played tremendous at short, and chipping in some key hits."
Hendrickson, oddly enough, did his best pitching at the end of the season. The towering southpaw made seven starts in April and May, but wasn't able to complete six innings in any of them. He's made four starts since the Orioles elected to shut down Brian Matusz, and his last three have all been quality outings.
"I would say probably the last couple starts, especially, I have just really seen what I wanted to do out there very clearly," said Hendrickson of his stretch run. "My mind has been quiet. Just going about executing pitches. I had a couple bumps in the road with each start, but for the most part, I wasn't letting anything get out of hand. It was just pitching to the point where my team had a chance to win. And that is ultimately as a starter what you want to do. You want to get into the seventh, eighth and ninth and let Dave manage the bullpen the way he can."
The Blue Jays got their best opportunity in the seventh, when they pushed two runners on base against Hendrickson. Baltimore went to reliever Cla Meredith, who allowed a run-scoring hit but otherwise escaped the inning. Danys Baez then pitched the eighth, and Jim Johnson worked the ninth for his 10th save of the season.
Trembley credited Hendrickson for getting deep into the game and allowing him to manage his bullpen in a prudent way.
"When he starts, his curveball has gotten a lot better," he said. "He can cut the fastball in. When he doesn't make a mistake with his fastball and he pitches in, I think his fastball is two pitches for him. When he was coming out of the 'pen, I think he was using the two-seam fastball more and not the cutter. I think as a starter, he's using the cutter more and the curveball a whole lot more. And the curveball is a swing-and-a-miss pitch for him."
Hendrickson, who is eligible for free agency, has stated that he'd like to come back to the Orioles. And on Saturday, after his last outing of the season, he spoke up in support of his younger teammates.
"Guys took some lumps during the season, but I think it is important [that] next year it is about wins and losses," he said. "I think guys have experienced a very difficult division and had their good moments. But I think everybody just needs to really put the effort in mentally to get ready knowing that they have kind of gone through a full season, so to speak, and just come back ready to work hard and ready to really apply what they learned this year."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.