On a rainy afternoon when the offense mysteriously reappeared and Manny Machado mysteriously disappeared, the Orioles closed out the non-mathematical first half of the season with a 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards.
The Manny mystery was soon solved. There was a predictable buzz when Jace Peterson came out on deck to replace him in the fourth inning, but it was just a precautionary move to get Machado off of the wet field.
Tough to trade a guy if he has a broken ankle.
He had already made his contribution for the day, hammering his 24th home run of the season in the first inning, but the Orioles (27-69) would need a lot more than that after fill-in starting pitcher Miguel Castro walked the first three batters of the game and gave up a grand slam to first baseman Ronald Guzmán.
Machado’s home run cut the lead to three and the Orioles erupted for five runs in the third against Rangers starting pitcher Mike Minor to take the lead.
That lead would hold up, but the game ended on an exciting last-ditch play at the plate, with pitch runner Carlos Tocci tagged out trying to score from first on a two-out double by Elvis Andrus off Orioles closer Zach Britton.
The pivotal fifth inning was ignited by the last two hitters in the Orioles batting order. No. 8 hitter Joey Rickard drew a leadoff walk and Caleb Joseph launched an RBI double deep into the gap in left center, but — for a change — the Orioles were not one and done.
Jonathan Schoop, whose bat is finally heating up, lined a one-out single to left that pushed Joseph to third and Machado walked to load the bases.
Enter Adam Jones, who had managed just three hits in his previous 26 at-bats, but laced a double down the left-field line that cleared the bases and gave the Orioles the lead. They would pick up a fifth run in the inning when third baseman Jurickson Profar made a wild throw that allowed Jones to score.
The announced crowd of 18,754 loved every minute of it until rain delayed the game and Machado made his unexplained exit.
Manager Buck Showalter explained after the game that the decision was made because of the special circumstances surrounding Machado as the Orioles approach the midseason trade deadline, but he didn’t really explain it to the star shortstop.
“I had no idea,’’ Machado said. “I don’t know why he did it. He just said, ‘I’m taking you out. You’ve had a good first half. Go represent us well in the All-Star Game.’ ”
The O’s figured to need some runs on a day when Showalter was prepared to empty his bullpen.
Castro was not announced as the starting pitcher until Sunday morning because no one could be sure of the composition of the bullpen until after Saturday night’s 1-0 victory.
Rookie Jimmy Yacabonis was originally scheduled to start but was ruled out earlier in the weekend because of an illness. Showalter indicated that veteran Chris Tillman might be a possibility because he was scheduled to make his final injury rehabilitation start at Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday, but he ended up doing just that.
Though Castro quickly regained his composure and followed up Guzman’s grand slam with seven straight outs, he had already thrown 60 pitches when Showalter brought on Tanner Scott.
Scott, who had given up three runs in a third of an inning on Friday night, was credited with his first major league victory for a brief scoreless appearance. He didn’t know he was the pitcher of record and found out when the veterans gave him their traditional first-win dousing with every liquid in the clubhouse.
“I honestly didn’t know,’’ Scott said. “Jonesy found out and it was pretty special. First one.”
Mike Wright Jr. followed with three solid innings of middle relief and left-hander Paul Fry pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings before Britton took the mound in the ninth.
“I thought Mike Wright obviously had the key outing,” Showalter said. “Tanner got back on the horse. Zach again. And we actually had a couple pitchers left for extra innings.”
Britton, who has not been scored upon in his past seven appearances, got the first two outs in the ninth before walking Shin-Soo Choo. Andrus followed with a double down the right-field line that was fielded by Mark Trumbo, who made a strong throw that Schoop relayed on one hop to Joseph for the bang-bang tag play.