The Orioles apparently are very much involved in the American League East division title race, though not in any way they could have imagined just three months ago.
While the O’s were knocking off the first-place Boston Red Sox, 7-6, on another rainy night at Camden Yards, they were closing in on a deal to send closer Zach Britton to the New York Yankees.
This is life in the nonwaiver trade deadline fast lane. The speculation about Britton’s eventual destination has increased steadily since the Orioles traded superstar Manny Machado last week.
The trade chatter heated up Tuesday, with an industry source telling The Baltimore Sun earlier in the day that the Yankees and Houston Astros had emerged as the front-runners to get the best remaining reliever on the market.
By the time the game at Oriole Park was through four innings, Twitter was alive with reports that the Yankees were close to a deal and that top-10 Yankees prospect Dillon Tate had been scratched from his scheduled start for Double-A Trenton.
Meanwhile, the Orioles were trying to give the Yankees another assist in a game that featured four lead changes in the first five innings.
O’s rookie starting pitcher Yefry Ramírez pitched a very solid first four innings, allowing only a solo home run to J.D. Martinez in the top of the first. It was Martinez’s 30th homer of the season, tying Cleveland Indians third baseman José Ramírez for the major league lead.
He would take sole possession of the home run lead with his second homer of the game, a two-run shot off Mychal Givens in the top of the eighth inning.
Yefry Ramírez also gave up a single in the first inning before retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced, which bought the Orioles time to provide him with some rare offensive support.
“Yefry Ramírez got his first win tonight,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Another things that’s impressive, that’s the second time they’ve seen him. I know he went five innings, but his moxie his moxie impressive. This kid, he’s got a nice way about him. He’s pretty approachable. He’s pretty excited about getting his first win.”
Jonathan Schoop gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer off Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz in the third inning, the big swing significant for two reasons:
It equaled the most run support Ramírez had received in any of his first five major league starts and it was Schoop’s fourth home run in his past five games. It also would not be enough — there would be several more big swings to come.
Ramírez seemed to be cruising with two outs and no one on base in the fifth inning, but No. 9 hitter Blake Swihart hammered his first home run of the season off the roof of the grounds crew shed in right-center field, and Mookie Betts followed with a shot to left, his 24th home run of the season.
The Orioles had scored just seven combined runs in Ramírez’ previous five games, which explained the 0-3 record and solid 3.09 ERA. This time, they decided to give him a chance to get a victory.
Catcher Caleb Joseph, who had singled and scored ahead of Schoop in the third inning, walked to lead off the fifth inning before Tim Beckham launched his fourth homer of the season to reclaim the lead.
Pomeranz did not survive that inning. He allowed four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings and left with only a chance to lose for the fourth time in five 2018 decisions.
Ramirez completed the fifth inning before giving way to reliever Mike Wright Jr., but was the pitcher of record when rain interrupted the game temporarily in the top of the sixth.
When the game resumed, the Orioles scored three times off Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who set up the inning with a pair of one-out walks before Joseph loaded the bases with an infield hit.
Beckham drove in his third run of the game with a sacrifice fly and Schoop got his third RBI when he bounced a single through the right side of the infield. Adam Jones delivered the Orioles’ seventh run with a soft liner to right field that scored Joseph with his third run of the game.
“He’s got to be up close to .240,” Showalter said of Schoop. “That is a long climb, and he’s climbed just the way I told him he was going to have to. Caleb’s up to around .230, .240, isn’t he? It’s good to see our guys battle. That’s a lot of tough conditions tonight, for both clubs.”
When the Red Sox scored twice in the eighth on the second home run by Martinez, it set up a revealing moment in the bullpen. Brad Brach entered the game for the save situation in the ninth instead of Britton, whose Orioles career has apparently come to an end. Brach allowed a run on an infield single by Rafael Devers, but got Betts to ground into a double play to end the game.