BALTIMORE (AP) — It didn't matter to Buck Showalter that the Baltimore Orioles couldn't hold a six-run lead against a stumbling team that's already looking toward next year.
All Showalter cared about was that the Orioles found a way to beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-7 Thursday night.
"A 'W' for Baltimore? That's the way I draw them up," the manager said. "They don't have to be aesthetically pleasing. At this stage, I'm not looking for pretty, I'm looking for 'W.' I thought it was beautiful. I thought it was real pretty."
After completing a 9-2 homestand against Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the Reds, the AL East-leading Orioles (82-57) maintained their 9 1/2-game lead and are assured a third straight winning season for the first time since 1992-94.
Baltimore has 23 games left, all against AL East foes.
"The homestand, that was huge for us," said J.J. Hardy, who delivered a tiebreaking two-run single in the seventh inning. "I think we had a chance to sweep every series. To take this one tonight was big, and now we've got all in division. It gets bigger."
Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 37th home run in a six-run first inning, but the Reds chipped away and finally pulled even with a four-run seventh.
Nick Markakis led off the bottom half with a single off Manny Parra (0-2), and Hardy put Baltimore back in front with a bases-loaded single on a 3-1 pitch from Sam LeCure.
Tommy Hunter (3-2) worked 1 1-3 innings and Zach Britton got three outs for his 33rd save.
"There's a real will there to be satisfied with two out of three (after) they fought their way back, but our guys pushed back," Showalter said. "We've being doing that a lot this year, pushing back."
After watching the Reds get beat 6-0 on Wednesday — their 15th loss in 21 games — Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said he was going to "see what we have in our system."
His starting lineup contained five September call-ups and first baseman Jack Hannahan, who has no RBIs in 17 games this season.
Continue reading this story on the...