During the magical 2012 season, the Orioles came up with a bunch of clutch hits. After all, you don't outperform you Pythagorean Win totals buy 11 games without coming up big in some close games. The Orioles were no exception.
So I took the 10 biggest hits in terms of Win Probability added and listed them below. Lots of heroes, not all of them obvious.
10. Wilson Betemit - .43 WPA - 4/13/12
The Orioles were in Toronto with two outs in the 8th and the bases were loaded. Betemit singled on a sharp ground ball up the middle scoring Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis turning a 1-run deficit into a 1-run lead. Reimold would tack on a run with a solo homer in the 9th and the Orioles would win 7-5, breaking a three game losing streak early in the season.
9. Adam Jones - .43 WPA - 9/19/12
It was the top of the 11th in Seattle and the game had been tied since the 4th inning. Nate McLouth hit a 1 out single and then Adam Jones put the O's on top for good with a long home run to left field. The win put the team 21 games over .500 and kept them a half game back of the Yankees for the division lead.
8. Taylor Teagarden - .44 WPA - 7/14/12
The game versus the World Series bound Detroit Tigers on July 14th is the clutchiest team performance in terms of offense of the 2012 season. Taylor Teagarden's game winning 2-run homer in the bottom of the 13th is not even the biggest hit of the game in terms of WPA and is one of three hits that moved the winning probability more than 40% in the Orioles' favor.
7. Adam Jones - .44 WPA - 7/14/12
There would have been no Teagarden walk-off in the 13th without Adam Jones' big hit in the 11th. Down to their final out with two men on, Jones drove a liner into left scoring Nick Markakis and tying the game at 5 runs apiece.
6. Mark Reynolds - .45 WPA - 7/19/12
With two outs in the top of the 8th, Mark Reynolds singled in Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit turning a one run deficit into a one run lead. The O's would beat the Twins 4-3.
5. Nick Johnson - .45 WPA - 5/11/12
Remember him? He didn't play much but he did have one of the biggest hits of the year for the Birds. With two outs in the bottom of the 7th, Johnson hit a 2-run homer and turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. (Sound familiar?). The bullpen made it stand up for the one run win over Tampa Bay.
4. Matt Wieters - .46 WPA - 6/24/12
The Nationals had shutout the Orioles for 7 innings but in the bottom of the 8th, Adam Jones singled and then Matt Wieters hit a homer to deep left-center. The blast gave Baltimore the 2-1 lead and, once again, the bullpen made it hold up.
3. Nick Markakis - .46 WPA - 4/22/12
Like many others, Nick Markakis turned a one run deficit into a one run lead with a bases loaded single in the top of the 8th. For good measure, after Angels had tied the game, Nick singled home the go-ahead run yet again in the top of the 10th off of La Troy Hawkins to give the O's their 3-2 victory. With those two big hits, Markakis had .741 WPA for the game, the clutchiest game for an Oriole hitter during the season.
2. J.J. Hardy - .47 WPA - 7/14/12
Back to the July 14th game against the Tigers, the Orioles were down by one run with one out in the bottom of the 13th. Taylor Teagarden was able to give the Birds the win thanks to J.J. Hardy's game tying homer earlier in the inning bringing them back from the brink of defeat.
1. Nate McLouth - .54 WPA - 8/27/12
Pedro Strop gave up three straight singles in the top of the 8th to give the White Sox the 3-2 lead. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Mark Reynolds walked and Nate McLouth hit a 2-run homer to deep right to give the Orioles the 4-3 lead that Jim Johnson would again make stand up.
Looking over this list, you can make the argument that the July 14th game versus Detroit was the turning point of the season. The Orioles were just 4 games over .500 heading into that game and went 48-28 the rest of the way, 20 games over .500. There were lots of great moments in this Oriole season but July 14th may have been the greatest game they played and sparked them to greater things as the rest of the season played out.