Down 2-1 in the fifth inning to the injured and struggling Blue Jays, who managed to take two of the last three from the Orioles over the last few days, the O's needed an offensive boost to keep pace with the likes of the AL East-leading Yankees and other AL wild card contending teams. Fortunately, they were up to the task, hitting three home runs that inning to grab a 6-2 lead. But O's hitters weren't finished; they added two-run homers in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings to take a commanding 12-2 lead, which also happened to be the game's final score.
All 12 runs were scored via seven (!) home runs, which ties the franchise record for homers in the same game and is the first time the team has hit that many since 1985. If you want to see all seven bombs, check out this MLB.com video.
Here's the home run breakdown:
1st inning: Nate McLouth (solo)
5th: Jim Thome (solo)
5th: Manny Machado (solo)
5th: Chris Davis (3-run)
6th: Mark Reynolds (2-run)
7th: Davis (2-run)
8th: Machado (2-run)
So, yup, seven home runs, and none of them hit by Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, or J.J. Hardy. Weird.
Even after the win, the O's are still 1.5 games back of the Yankees, but they are a half-game up on the A's for the top wild card spot. They're also 2.5 games up on the Angels and 3.5 up on the Rays. (Those teams all have seven games remaining, while the O's only have six.) Those six games for the O's are three at home against the Red Sox and three at Tampa Bay to end the season.
New York, who has seven games against Toronto and Boston, is still the heavy favorite to win the division. Oakland still has four against the Rangers and three against the Mariners, so things are still somewhat difficult for them, even if the Rangers rest a few of their regulars. The Angels have four games against the Mariners and three against the Rangers. And the Rays face the White Sox in Chicago for four huge games (Chicago trails Detroit by only one game in the AL Central) before the season-ending series against the O's.
The O's would do themselves a huge favor by taking at least two of three from the Red Sox. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester just pitched, so the O's won't have to face either of them. Instead, they get to face Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront, and Zach Stewart. The O's have already knocked Cook around twice this season, though Doubront has pitched extremely well against them twice (striking out 20 in 13 innings while allowing only three runs). Stewart, sent to the Red Sox in the Kevin Youkilis trade, has yet to face the O's while with Boston, but the O's did score a bunch of unearned runs on him in April while he was with Chicago.
There's no guarantee, even with only a handful of games left, that the O's make the playoffs. But they have an excellent shot, and you really couldn't ask for more than that, considering this is the Orioles and all. This season has been amazing, and hopefully that continues into the playoffs.