The next night, the Orioles used superb defense to hold a tense 2-2 tie into the bottom of the ninth inning. That set the stage for Nate McLouth, one of the club's miracle midseason finds, to win it with a hit deep into the right-field corner.

Finally, on Thursday, back-up catcher Taylor Teagarden continued his season of improbable timely hitting, putting the Orioles ahead with a two-run double in the seventh inning. Teagarden has six hits all year; five have provided crucial runs in one- or two-run victories.

But that wasn't dramatic enough for the Orioles, who allowed the tying run in the eighth, so they could eventually win in the 14th on a looping single by 20-year-old phenom Manny Machado.

With the victory, they moved to 27-7 in one-run games, the best any team has ever performed in those tightest of contests.

As a sign of just how loose the Orioles are, they had all the club's rookies — including Machado — donning tutus for the five-hour flight to Oakland after the game.

Fifteen years can feel like an eternity in baseball.

Roger Maris still held the single-season home run record and Hank Aaron the career mark the last time the Orioles fielded a winner. The term "steroid era" had not been coined. Derek Jeter was playing his second full season for the Yankees.

Not a single member of the 1997 Orioles remains an active player (reliever Arthur Rhodes pitched until last season). Two key players from that team, Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken Jr., are in the Hall of Fame.

The streak of losing records has consumed seven managers and six front-office regimes. Only Pittsburgh, where the Pirates are struggling to stay above .500, has waited longer for a winner. If the Pirates join the Orioles and break their losing string at 19, the Kansas City Royals, on their way to a ninth straight losing season, would be next in line.

Thoughts of such streaks seemed distant for the Orioles after Thursday's marathon win. The playoffs loomed far larger.

"There's a bigger goal in mind," said manager Buck Showalter. "We've been watching other teams for years and saying, 'We want to do what they're doing. We'd like to get a chair at the dance.'"

Orioles records since 1997

Year W L Pct.

*2012 81 62 .566

2011 69 93 .426

2010 66 96 .407

2009 64 98 .395

2008 68 93 .422

2007 69 93 .426