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Orioles walk off in 10th to win fifth straight

Baltimore takes back-and-forth affair on Clevenger's RBI double

BALTIMORE -- For the Orioles, it was worth the wait.

After a blown save by closer Tommy Hunter led to both clubs waiting out a 55-minute rain delay, backup catcher Steve Clevenger's one-out RBI double drove in J.J. Hardy in the bottom of the 10th to seal the O's 5-4 walk-off win over the Astros.

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BALTIMORE -- For the Orioles, it was worth the wait.

After a blown save by closer Tommy Hunter led to both clubs waiting out a 55-minute rain delay, backup catcher Steve Clevenger's one-out RBI double drove in J.J. Hardy in the bottom of the 10th to seal the O's 5-4 walk-off win over the Astros.

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"I think everybody was real frustrated there to be so close in the ninth," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was back with the team by game time after spending the day in Texas for his son's graduation.

"What we've got to do is try to do a better job of not creating so many save situations. It happened last year, and it's something we'd like to get better at. But you're one pitch away from closing out a good game. Our guys came back. They picked each other up. Stevie obviously had a big hit, J.J., Nicky [Markakis] in the middle of that inning. A lot of things to be proud of. Been a long day."

The hard-fought victory saw first-place Baltimore extend its season-high winning streak to five games, erasing Hunter's mishap and ensuring the best outing from starter Miguel Gonzalez wouldn't go for naught.

"Resilient," Hardy said of what Saturday's win shows about this Orioles team. "It's like a couple years ago when we had that not give up attitude. Maybe this jump starts something for us. We kind of feel that the game's never over, and especially if it's a one-run game."

Things got going when Hardy connected for a one-out infield hit off Astros reliever Paul Clemens, and Clevenger drove a ball down the right-field line to score the hustling shortstop and cause the benches to empty.

"I was tired, yeah," Hardy said of beating out the infield hit and scoring on the double. "After I slid home and then realized I had to go run out and meet Clevy and give him a high five, I could barely get out there."

Still it was a welcome sight for an Orioles club on the verge of an ugly loss.

"When you got out there and lose a game like this, it's tough," said Clevenger, who was mobbed by teammates after Hardy crossed the plate, "but we got the W and it feels great coming in tomorrow."

Fresh off the delay, the Orioles tied it up on Delmon Young's two-out RBI single off Anthony Bass. Young, who got behind 0-2 in the count, punched a ball behind second base and beat the throw to first to send the game into extras.

"It's a real tough play," Astros manager Bo Porter said of shortstop Jonathan Villar's running stop and throw across his body. "Villar did everything he could. He stretched and fielded a ball and made a throw, and the guy beat it out."

The O's loaded the bases with two outs against Bass, with Jonathan Schoop extending the game in beating out an infield single that shortstop Villar couldn't get a grip on. Markakis followed with a base hit to left-center field and Bass walked Manny Machado on four straight pitches to bring on pinch-hitter Young.

That the O's had to wait out the passing rain storm at all was because Hunter -- the only closer in baseball without a clean 1-2-3 inning -- couldn't get out of two-out trouble and blew a one-run lead in the ninth.

"It was awesome," Hunter said of his teammates picking him up. "Good group of guys in here. You can't ever really give up on these guys. And tonight's another, 'Hey thanks, you picked me up.' I'll return the favor someday. And hopefully I return it quite a few times."

Hunter surrendered a two-run ninth-inning single to Jose Altuve to mark his second blown save in 13 tries. The righty, who navigated around a pair of baserunners in Friday's win and stranded the bases loaded in Tampa Bay, has allowed 24 base runners in 14 1/3 innings, adding some unwelcome excitement to the ninth.

After a strikeout to leadoff man George Springer, Hunter gave up a single and double to make things interesting. He got a break on Villar's fielders choice getting the lead runner, but Altuve made him pay with a center-field single that gave the Astros the lead for good. He was pulled after Altuve's hit in favor of lefty Troy Patton, who recorded the final out before play was halted for rain.

"No, I don't [analyze my outings]," Hunter said. "They are hitting fastballs, they are hitting curveballs, they are hitting everything I throw right now. So, it's not just one pitch. Or spot up. Just keep battling. It's going to break through."

Gonzalez who has struggled to go deep into games was able to break through with a season-high seven innings. He allowed a pair of runs and gave the Orioles their 12th quality start in 34 games in the no-decision.

"It's nice to see that [low pitch count] up there and know I can go deeper in games," said Gonzalez, who needed just 90 pitches in his outing. "That's what we've been trying to accomplish and we made it happen tonight."

After Gonzalez exited the tie game, Nelson Cruz gave the O's their first lead of the night, breaking a 2-2 tie with a solo homer off reliever Josh Zeid to start the bottom of the eighth. Cruz, who extended his own team lead in homers, was preceded by Adam Jones' solo shot in the sixth to put the O's on the board.

Down one, the O's loaded the bases in the seventh off Astros starter Collin McHugh, who tripped fielding a sacrifice bunt from Clevenger to help fuel the rally. After a leadoff single from Hardy and the error allowing Clevenger aboard, red-hot Steve Pearce singled to load the bases. The Orioles immediately tied it, with McHugh's wild pitch skipping past Jason Castro to tie it up and McHugh exited after Schoop's soft liner for the first out.

The Astros bullpen, which entered the day with the worst ERA in the league, got out of it as reliever Tony Sipp got Markakis to groundout and Zeid struck out Machado.

But the O's came back to make the squandered chance not matter.

"It was worth the wait," Gonzalez said. "I thought we played a great game. We battled. We got the win. That's the most important thing. We played as a team. We made some good plays when we needed to. Clevenger called a great game and his last hit was nice. I saw him really comfortable and relaxed and ready to go and he got a pitch to hit."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli.

Baltimore Orioles, Steve Clevenger, Miguel Gonzalez