Though shortened by rain, the Baltimore Orioles' series with the Washington Nationals provided sunny results. The Orioles took two of three from the Nationals — whose ballparks are separated by just 38 miles.
With a 4-3 victory on Thursday, Baltimore is 50-41 and sit in first place in the American League East Division. The Toronto Blue Jays are in second place and still remain three games back.
The Orioles won Thursday's tilt the same way they've won for much of the year. By getting key hits and using the long ball, Baltimore is in good position heading into the All-Star break.
"We have a real good team," Steve Pearce told the official team website. "We're firing on all cylinders right now and I like where we're at as a ballclub."
Pearce has been leading the Orioles' charge to the top of the division with a .316 batting average over the past 10 games. He sparked the scoring on Thursday with a solo home run — his 11th of the season in the bottom of the first inning. Pearce added a single later in the game and he is now sporting a .322 batting average, second on the team, over the course of the season.
Pearce was crucial in the Orioles' previous series win — a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. He had his first career four-hit game on July 4 as Baltimore took a 5-2 decision down in Texas.
“Stevie, running out of things to describe him,” manager Buck Showalter said in The Baltimore Sun. “He's centering up a lot of balls right now. One of those things, don't over-coach. Just get out of the way and try not to talk to him.”
Back on Thursday, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz each drove in runs in the fourth inning to build their lead and they held on despite the Nationals making a brief surge in the sixth.
Jones leads the team with a .325 batting average to go with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs. Cruz is having a career year and putting up MVP-quality numbers with a league-leading 28 home runs and 74 RBIs.
Baltimore certainly is surging at the right time. Instead of gaining ground, it's maintaining it. The Orioles have won seven of their nine games, thus far in June. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have dropped six of nine and the New York Yankees have lost five of ten.
The only drawback for Baltimore has been Chris Davis. The once-reformed slugger has been marred in a season-long slump. He sports a .202 batting average but has been just five of 39 in at-bats over the last 10 games.
Starting the Washington series, though, Davis helped aid the Orioles offense in a 8-2 win in 11 innings.
He hit a two-run home run that sparked an uncharacteristic six-run frame in extra innings.
"I have to keep a good mindset. All you can (do) is work hard and trust the results," Davis told the Sports XChange. "I have been doing everything I can to get here early and hit off the tee."
The Orioles have been winning without Davis contributing, but as evidenced with that win, he certainly can help.
Now at the halfway point of the season, Baltimore is primed for the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2013. In 2012, the city hosted playoff baseball for the first time in 16 years.
With the way the Orioles have been playing recently, they certainly can make it a yearly tradition.