BALTIMORE (AP) — The fans at Camden Yards wanted to give Trey Mancini a nice sendoff — just in case.
Then the Baltimore slugger lifted a routine flyball to right, and it turned into a wild trip around the bases.
Mancini hit an inside-the-park home run in what may have been his final home plate appearance with the Orioles, and Baltimore blanked the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on Thursday.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words that that happened,” Mancini said.
Jordan Lyles pitched impressively into the sixth for the Orioles, who took three of four from Tampa Bay and went 4-3 on a big homestand against the Yankees and Rays. They have put together a winning record in consecutive months for the first time since 2016 and trail Tampa Bay by three games for the final wild card in the American League — a much better position than expected as the trade deadline approaches.
Lyles (7-8) and Mancini both could be dealt by a Baltimore team that has still seemed to be in a rebuilding mode for much of this season, but with the Orioles now in contention, it’s not clear what they’ll do. Baltimore went on a 10-game winning streak prior to the All-Star break, then held its own on this homestand against two tough AL East rivals.
Some fans stood and cheered when Mancini came up with one on and one out in the eighth and the Orioles up 1-0. He hit a fly to right, and Josh Lowe had trouble locating the ball and missed it. It hit the left side of his face and bounced away, and Mancini circled the bases.
Mancini, the designated hitter for Baltimore, took a curtain call before the top of the ninth to acknowledge the chanting crowd.
“I was actually down in the tunnel just putting up my helmet and shin guards and my elbow guard, and then Tyler Nevin came down and told me that they were calling my name,” Mancini said. “It meant a lot. Again, I have no idea what the next few days bring, but I wanted to make sure to soak in every moment today, just in case this was it.”
Mancini has been a bright spot as the Orioles have gone through a difficult rebuild. He earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in the AL last year after being treated for stage 3 colon cancer.
“He is somebody that has gone through, obviously, what he went through,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve had great on-field, off-field conversations, and he’s opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I consider him a close friend.”
Anthony Santander doubled home a run in the third to open the scoring. Lyles allowed three hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out four. He pitched around four walks, and the Baltimore bullpen held onto the lead. Félix Bautista retired all four of his hitters, striking out three, for his third save.
Ryan Yarbrough (0-6) allowed a run and four hits in six innings. He struck out eight with no walks.
Lyles struck out Lowe with men on first and third for the third out of the first. He walked two straight hitters with one out in the fifth, then retired Brandon Lowe and Ji-Man Choi on a popup and a groundout to escape that jam.
Lyles was replaced with two outs in the sixth, and Cionel Pérez struck out pinch-hitter Randy Arozarena with two on. Pérez pitched the seventh, Bryan Baker got the first two outs of the eighth, and Bautista came on with men on second and third to strike out Arozarena for the third out of that frame.
Josh Lowe, whose misplay made Mancini’s homer possible, had a significant bruise on his cheek after the game. His sunglasses were on his forehead on the play, but he said he’s not sure that made a difference.
“Kind of a tough sky toward the end. Hadn’t really been like that at all,” Lowe said. “A lot of clouds, so you could see I didn’t have sunglasses on, and it had been fine the entire time. … That was the first one that really got up there and got in the clouds.”
The Orioles hosted Mo Gaba Day to honor the life and legacy of Gaba, a 14-year-old fan who died two years ago after several battles with cancer. Mancini mentioned Gaba when discussing his homer.
“I had some help from somebody,” he said. “That was absolutely insane. I’d like to think Mo had a hand in it.”
Orioles: Baltimore put RHP Tyler Wells (lower left side discomfort) on the 15-day injured list. The Orioles also optioned LHP Nick Vespi to Triple-A Norfolk and recalled RHPs Logan Gillaspie and Beau Sulser from Norfolk.
Rays: Tampa Bay opens a home series against Cleveland. Jeffrey Springs (3-2) takes the mound Friday night against Shane Bieber (4-6) of the Guardians.
Orioles: Baltimore has not announced a starter for the opener of its series at Cincinnati. Mike Minor (1-7) pitches for the Reds.
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This version has been corrected to show there was one out on Mancini’s homer, and his curtain call was before the top of the ninth.