Scott's slam, play at plate give O's series
Five-run rally in eighth propels Baltimore past Seattle
BALTIMORE -- It was a well-placed pitch from Seattle's Brandon League, the kind of 95-mph fastball that has eluded Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott in the midst of the most prolonged slump of his five-year career.
And as Scott swung at the first offering in his eighth-inning at-bat, he watched wordlessly -- along with an anxious home dugout on its feet -- as League's pitch sailed into left-center field, teetering close enough to the wall to allow several home fans to seize the moment and secure Scott's game-winning grand slam.
The ball, which just missed Mariners left fielder Michael Saunders' glove, put the Orioles' 11th victory in the books by way of a 6-5 series-clincher in front of a crowd of 20,938 at Camden Yards.
"To tell you the truth, I thought I had it," Saunders said of Scott's blast.
"I had a bead on it, but when I jumped up and hit the wall, I came down empty handed. I at least thought I would be able to touch it. I don't think I did. I think the fan [with a glove] beat me to it."
A lucky break? Perhaps. But for a team that has been on the wrong end of seemingly every bounce and bad hop, the Orioles weren't letting anything stop them from celebrating Thursday's win.
"Moments like this, it kind of makes you feel like you can breathe again," said Scott, who admits his struggles at the plate have caused him many sleepless nights. He entered Thursday's contest batting .048 (1-for-21) with runners in scoring position, and spent most of the season's first month with a batting average below .200.
"When he gets hot, he'll help carry the team," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said of Scott, who took early batting practice before nearly every game of the team's recently wrapped seven-game road trip.
"He's a guy who goes through that bad streak and then somehow he finds it, and he's finding it right now."
The decisive eighth inning got started with another long ball, as Corey Patterson opened the frame with a homer off League. Adam Jones then reached first on a wild pitch after swinging through strike three. Nick Markakis singled, and his hard slide into second base helped avoid a double-play on Miguel Tejada's ensuing fielder's choice, a play that would later prove to be pivotal. Ty Wigginton walked to load the bases for Scott's blast, which marked the Orioles' first grand-slam since Michael Aubrey did it on Oct. 2, 2009.
"It's just big," catcher Matt Wieters said of Scott's blast. "Especially from him. If we can get him going it would really help this team."
Scott, who connected for a solo homer in Wednesday's game, has a four-game hitting streak and went 4-for-8 with a double, two homers and five RBIs in the Seattle series to raise his season average to .213.
"I don't think anyone hits happier home runs than Luke Scott," said Orioles starter Kevin Millwood, who was inside icing when the home dugout erupted. "I don't know if anybody watches him after his homers because he gets pretty excited."
The excitement didn't wane in the ninth, although the Orioles certainly would have liked it to. De facto closer Alfredo Simon put two men on board with one out, issuing a hit-by-pitch and a walk to give the Mariners some late-game momentum. Simon proceeded to strike out Saunders on a foul tip and made a good pitch to Ichiro Suzuki that caught just enough plate for him to punch it through a hole on the left side of the infield. Patterson, who had just been repositioned and was playing relatively shallow, fielded Suzuki's ball and came up firing, throwing a liner to Wieters to nail a hustling Josh Wilson at the plate and end the game in dramatic fashion.
"You got to assume with two outs, you know, they are going to wave him in there [to try to score]," Wieters said. "So, you just need a good throw."
Wieters, who said he practiced the plays at the plate all spring, kept his left foot planted and blocked the plate, putting a textbook tag on Wilson to keep the tying run off the scoreboard.
"[The throw] was a little off line, but Matt made a good play to stretch it across and make the tag," Patterson said.
Patterson had his contract purchased prior to Wednesday night's game and acknowledged the past 24 hours have been a bit of a whirlwind.
"But it's all worth it," Patterson said. "I'm glad to come in, help these guys win some games. It's not just going to be one person. It's still going to be a total team effort. What we've got to do is just pick each other up like we did [on Thursday]."
The Orioles' late-inning comeback secured the team's second series win, both of which have come in the cozy confines of Camden Yards. It also avoided tagging Millwood with a loss. The veteran right-hander retired the first nine Mariners he faced before pitching around a leadoff single to Ichiro in the fourth. Seattle's leadoff hitter, Ichiro sent Millwood's 2-0 pitch sailing over the right-center-field wall in the following frame for a two-out, two-run homer. Mike Sweeney and No. 9 batter Saunders each added solo blasts to chase Millwood from the game with five runs allowed on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.
"Normally solo home runs aren't going to beat you, [but] if you give up enough of them they will," said Millwood, who has surrendered an American League-leading 10 homers despite a respectable 3.69 ERA.
"I'm definitely not happy with my performance, but I am happy that the team got a win, that is what it is all about," said Millwood.
Scott echoed the starter's sentiments.
"We need this," Scott said. "We need things like this to happen. Gosh, we've endured some really, really tough times. I've never seen a team go through what we've gone through the first part of the season, it's been really tough for us. But moments like this, are very much appreciated."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.