The Orioles witnessed history while staring down their future in Sunday's 10-6 win in Texas.
At the end of a marathon game that was delayed by Adrian Beltre's 3,000th hit, Orioles players were left with nothing to do but confront the team's future after Sunday's 10-6 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
For all the joy that came with Beltré making history in becoming the 31st player to reach the milestone, the final image of the game was perhaps the most appropriate for where the Orioles stand on July 30 — closer Zach Britton getting the last out.
Britton pitched back-to-back games for the first time since his two-month absence with a forearm strain. It was a final showcase to the scouts for the World Series contenders considering paying the ransom the Orioles hope to receive for a player who could be part of a revival in 2017 or 2018, or net them top prospects for beyond that.
That Britton earned two straight saves meant the Orioles won again, improving to 50-54 and bringing them to Monday's nonwaiver trade deadline 5.5 games out of a playoff spot with three teams between them and the second wild card.
"I along with many other players in here, firmly believe that we're still in this race," center fielder Adam Jones. "We have two months to go —  games left. It's going to be tough, these next two months, but I believe if we put our heads down and do what we need to do and play like we did today, we should put ourselves in a good position."
Manager Buck Showalter took a plain view of where the team stood entering the trade deadline, which he often calls a false one.
"It leaves us spending three hours and 40 minutes on the field winning a tough series, having a .500 road trip, getting on the plane and getting back getting ready to play Kansas City," he said. "Really. That's where everybody's focus is. I'm sure they have some private thoughts about it, and they talk among themselves because they share. ... This team shares their ups and downs, and what people are feeling. They feel comfortable talking to each other about it. I haven't had many people I've needed to talk to."
Still, Showalter knew what he was doing inserting Britton into a four-run game with two outs in the ninth inning, a night after a one-out save.
He never doubted Britton could pitch consecutive days. In fact, he reminded everyone after the game that he believed Britton would be better on the second day, which he was. Such a look, shown to the outside world, had value Sunday.
So fluid is the Orioles' situation with the likes of Britton and Brad Brach — who had a dominant inning of work himself on Sunday — that even with known commodities, teams' perceptions and valuations can change on a dime.
The players themselves are focused on the idea that a playoff race can, too. A miserable 24-hour stretch earlier this week in Tampa Bay spoiled what could have been a good road trip, had they not lost Tuesday night and Wednesday morning before getting Thursday off. But even so, the muddled American League race, combined with Friday's acquisition of right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to potentially stabilize their rotation, has them thinking about next month, not next year or beyond.
"Keep winning," said Sunday's winning starting pitcher, Wade Miley. "I haven't thought about it one time. I know there's guys in there whose names are being tossed around, but you've got to go out and play. That's what we get paid to do."
"It's all about the Ws," third baseman Manny Machado said. "We're trying to get on a roll. We're trying to win some games. We're not really worried about who's going to get traded or what's going to happen. Those are things only the front office can control. We can go out there and play baseball, get outs, have key at-bats, play inning-by-inning and do the small things to keep us going."
With that mindset, there's sure to be plenty of relief among the players. The idea of a teardown, even a partial one, in an effort to gain future assets doesn't carry much weight inside the clubhouse, though it has plenty merit outside it.