ATLANTA—A day after a frustrated Mark Reynolds stood by his locker and said his two-homer game meant nothing because the end result was another loss, the third baseman rescued the Orioles with one more powerful swing.
A half-inning after the Atlanta Braves had scored four times to take the lead, Reynolds launched a two-run homer off Scott Proctor and the Orioles bullpen survived some anxious moments late to close out a 5-4 victory in front of an announced 23,492 at Turner Field.
"It's a little nail-biting," said Reynolds, who has 18 homers this season and four in his past four games. He also added a sacrifice fly Sunday and is tied for the team lead with 46 RBIs "It takes a toll on you a little bit, but when we can come out on top like we did today, it feels good. Hopefully, we don't have too many more of these where we got to make a quality pitch there just to keep the lead."
Now at the official midpoint of their season, the Orioles (36-45) salvaged one game in the three-game series, ended a five-game losing streak and finishing interleague play with a 7-11 mark, but not before doing everything possible to make their lives more difficult.
Zach Britton became the first Orioles pitcher in more than five years to hit a home run and Nick Markakis had a career-best five hits, including an RBI double. However, what should have been a comfortable win became a white-knuckler because the Orioles went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranded nine base runners and struck out 12 times.
Adam Jones and Derrek Lee -- the number three and five Nos. 3 and 5 hitters, respectively -- combined to go 0-for-10 with four strikeouts and a double play and left 15 runners on base. Yet Reynolds long drive into the left-field seats, which came with two outs and on a 1-0 fastball by Proctor, made those things an afterthought.
"We never should have been in that situation," Reynolds said. "I had a runner on third [in] my first three at-bats and [struck out] twice. I should have at least picked those guys up, but we were lucky enough to hold them when we did. Nicky had a great day, five hits and on base all over the place, and Britton threw just good enough and we were able to get a win."
It was certainly in doubt over the final three innings. With two outs in the seventh, Jim Johnson, who relieved Britton in the sixth and was on the mound for three of Atlanta's four runs, watched Brian McCann line a pitch deep to right field. The ball hit off the top of the wall, just inches from a game-tying homer, and Markakis threw out McCann, who was to stretch the single into a double.
"Nicky never assumes," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It kind of brought his whole day together. That might have been as important as his five hits."
Pitching on back-to-back days, Koji Uehara looked affected by heat and fatigue. However, he struck out pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad to strand two runners and turn in a scoreless eighth.
Closer Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his 15th save of the season. After falling behind 3-1 to Chipper Jones, he got the Braves third baseman to look at back-to-back pitches to end the game. Jones blasted plate umpire Mark Ripperger after the game and described the umpiring in baseball as "substandard, for the most part." Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez also described the two calls on Jones as "awful." But that was of little consequence to the Orioles, who were simply happy to have one victory to take on the team charter flight to Texas, where they start a three-game series with the Rangers on Monday night.
"It definitely feels like we fight and claw to get a win," said Britton, who allowed three earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four over five innings. He has just one win in his past 11 starts and has gone less than six innings in five of his past seven outings.
"I think a lot of that has to do with the starting pitching, too. Today I felt like I threw really well, had some of my best stuff through five. In the sixth inning, you give them some momentum by walking a guy, giving up a hit. So I feel like it's more we let teams back in the game and then we have to fight and claw the rest of the way to scrap out a win. And sometimes we don't."
The Orioles built the 3-0 lead, partly on the strength of Britton's bat. When he lined Braves starter Brandon Beachy's 2-1 pitch just over the right-field wall in the third, he became the first Orioles pitcher to homer since Kris Benson connected for a solo shot off then-New York Mets starter Pedro Martinez on June 17, 2006.
"I was a pretty good hitter in high school, and for some reason, I'm really relaxed in the box," Britton said.
Britton, who is 5-for-8 this season, hit an infield single in the top of the fifth and scored when Markakis laced a double down the right-field line. The Orioles still had runners on second and third with no outs in the inning but couldn't score another run as Jones fouled out, Reynolds struck out and Lee popped out.
Britton got out of a bases-loaded-and-one-out jam in the fifth by getting Jason Heyward to hit into an inning-ending double play on a 3-2 pitch. However, the Orioles' young left-hander acknowledged that he ran out of gas as he couldn't retire any of the three batters he faced in the sixth.
Freddie Freeman's RBI single ended his day and prompted Showalter to summon Johnson from the bullpen. Johnson (5-1) allowed an RBI groundout to former Oriole Julio Lugo and a two-run single to pinch hitter Eric Hinske that gave the Braves (49-36) a 4-3 lead.
Proctor (1-2) managed to get two outs in the seventh before Reynolds saved the Orioles from another deflating loss.
"He's a big ol' boy up there, and when he gets a hold of one, it usually goes a long ways," Markakis said of Reynolds. "That's what he does, and hopefully he can keep it going."