Trey Mancini stood at his locker this morning and packed his folded clothes in a duffle bag for the trip to Cincinnati, where the Orioles begin their next road trip. He’s going to board the team charter. But his eventual destination is unknown.
Fans at Camden Yards stood to applaud Mancini again before his first at-bat, knowing that he could be traded by Tuesday’s deadline. They’ve seen the schedule. They know that the Orioles don’t return home until Aug. 5.
The response from Mancini was a line drive single into left field, his third hit since entering last night’s game in an 0-for-26 slump. Nothing emotional in the batter’s box. Just his usual professional approach.
Mancini batted in the eighth after Austin Hays doubled in a 3-0 win over the Rays, and of course, it had to be dramatic. A fly ball to right field off former Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong that hit Josh Lowe in the face, Mancini rounding the bases for his 10th home run and first career inside-the-park, the place erupting.
The first inside-the-park homer by the Orioles since Hays on Aug. 11, 2020 in Philadelphia. Robert Andino had the last one in Baltimore, on Sept. 26, 2011.
Lowe lost the ball in the sun. The crowd didn’t care how it happened, just that it did.
They wanted Mancini to come out of the dugout for a curtain call, and he obliged after the inning. To the top step, and then onto the field to wave.
"Who knows what's going to happen, but that was really cool, the ovation that they gave him and saying 'Thank you' to him for the great years he's had here," said manager Brandon Hyde. "We'll see what happens, I don't think anybody knows, but Trey appreciated it, and what a way to go out, if he is going out.
"I think everybody in the park was hoping for a feel-good there at the end, and an unusual play. And when we needed it. I know he's exhausted right now. That's a long run."
Anthony Santander drove in the first run, the bullpen completed an outstanding series with 3 1/3 scoreless innings, giving the unit 17 2/3 in regulation, and the Orioles again moved above .500 at 50-49.
The Orioles went 4-3 on the homestand and recorded their ninth shutout of the season.
Teammates searched for Mancini as fans chanted his name. Tyler Nevin found him in the tunnel.
"I, of course wanted to go out and acknowledge them," 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. It was incredible. I've always felt the love from the fans since Day One, since I was drafted. I remember my first game in Aberdeen in 2013, I was so wowed by all the fans and how much they supported us and how much they already knew about some of us draft picks that had just been drafted. They just seemed so happy to have all of us. From that day until now, and every day in between, they've been incredible and I've always felt the love from the fans here, but that's all you can ask for."
Mancini said again that he understands how the business works, and he has no say in where he plays.
"I'm just going to go out there every day and keep playing for this team and the name across my chest," he said, "because I love the city and the team and all these guys in here. It's just been such a fun year."
Asked what crossed his mind as he approached third base, Mancini didn't miss a beat.
"I hope that they ruled it a hit," he said.
"I was like, 'You've got to get home on this.' It was crazy just hearing the crowd. I'm speechless."
Rays manager Kevin Cash thinks the play should have been scored an error. Lowe has a welt on his left cheek from it.
"It's a very helpless feeling," he said. "I’m more embarrassed than anything."
Mancini was presented with the home run chain in the dugout. The ball isn't required to clear the fence.
"I had to make sure it was ruled a homer," he said. "(Ryan) McKenna came and put it on me. Mac's always there to help out in that situation. He put it on me."
Mancini's never hit an inside-the-park home run at any level. He only went home to home if the ball was thrown away.
"I've always been too slow," he said. "I was a pretty plump young kid and speed was never my forte."
Hyde would like to see Mancini keep rounding the bases as an Oriole. But he, too, knows it's business first.
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse or anything. Who knows what's going to happen?" Hyde said. "But I really enjoy managing him. He is somebody who's gone through, obviously, what he went through. 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."
What Mancini means to a young team, the impact of his return from Stage 3 colon cancer, is "perseverance, toughness, grind," Hyde said. "You can put any sort of those adjectives out there, he's shown that. None of us know what he went through, exactly. We've never felt what he did. To go through chemotherapy and play baseball a year later in the major leagues, it's unbelievable."
"I'd like to manage him for the next 10 years," Hyde added. "He's fun to manage. Who knows what's going to happen in this game? Who knows what's going to happen the next six days? But any manager would love to manage Trey. He's a pleasure to have in the clubhouse, he's a pro, he's extremely mature, he's great to talk to. I enjoy our non-baseball conversations as much as I do about him grinding at the plate. He's just a great guy."
Jordan Lyles was inside the clubhouse as Mancini chugged around third base, slid home and signaled that he was safe as he spun back to his feet.
"The play itself was weird, but baseball, man," he said. "Crazy stuff like that happens, special moments. I've only been here one year. Playing against him on the other side, I know what he's meant to this team, this organization, this city. It's obviously, however things go down these next few days, if this is the last time, no one else deserves it more than him. Great person, great teammate. Baltimore has been very lucky to have him.
"When he came up, I think they were still in the thick of things and then they had a little spell for a few years as an organization, so there's been the ups and the downs. He's never wavered. Class act, great ballplayer. Everyone knows that. Just the total package."
Lyles blanked the Rays on three hits over 5 2/3 innings, a full-count walk to Roman Quinn ending his day at 106 pitches. His reluctance to hand over the ball was most appreciated with Tyler Wells on the injured list and the bullpen running on fumes, but manager Brandon Hyde took it from him.
Cionel Pérez inherited two runners, the Rays pinch-hit Randy Arozarena for Brett Phillips, and the left-hander recorded the strikeout with the count full to preserve a 1-0 lead. Pérez stranded a runner in the seventh and lowered his ERA to 1.30.
Bryan Baker put two runners on base in the eighth with a hit batter and walk, got the second out and stepped aside for Félix Bautista, who struck out Arozarena on three pitches and notched his third save - and the first since May 12 in St. Louis. Four batters faced, four retired, with three strikeouts.
"On fumes throwing 100," Hyde said.
The Orioles don’t have a quality start in their last 11 games.
They won’t know how long Wells stays on the IL until receiving the results of his MRI and tracking his progress. The discomfort in his lower back and left side remained this morning.
“We’re not going to know anything until the MRI comes back,” Hyde said.
"You just want to make sure he's OK physically. Mentally, he's OK," Lyles said. "Yeah, it's tough. Things happen. It's kind of sad that he was getting his feet wet and he was doing it very well. Probably better than a lot of people in this organization thought he would, to come out his first full year starting after post-(Tommy John). He answered the bell every single time."
Hyde doesn’t know who’s starting Monday. He hasn’t announced the rotation for the Reds series that begins Friday night.
Dean Kremer’s turn is Friday, but he could be pushed back.
“We’re shuffling a bunch of things around right now,” Hyde said. “We’re TBA in Cincinnati right now and TBA on Monday.”
Hyde confirmed that Kyle Bradish is under consideration after the rookie right-hander made three injury rehab starts in the minors. He pitched Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk, keeping him on turn Friday, and allowed two runs and four hits with six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He tossed eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts with Double-A Bowie.
Bruce Zimmermann also is on the 40-man roster and a possibility.
The Orioles optioned reliever Nick Vespi, which Hyde regretted, but the bullpen required a couple of fresh arms with Logan Gillaspie and Beau Sulser. Vespi won’t be on a taxi squad for the road trip. The Orioles can get him on a flight if he’s needed.
The Orioles needed innings from Lyles. More than usual. And he was forced to throw 24 pitches in the first.
Ji-Man Choi reached on an infield hit after Jorge Mateo cut off Ramón Urías in the shift, and Luke Raley bounced a ball past the mound with two outs that Urías couldn’t handle. Also scored a hit, which extended Lyles’ stay on the mound.
Josh Lowe struck out with the count full.
Lyles helped himself in the fourth by fielding Lowe’s check-swing roller on the left side of the mound, spinning and making a leaping throw to first base. Lyles smiled as he glanced at an approving dugout.
"I didn't know if I wanted to go full Derek Jeter over the top or just kind of spin and throw it," Lyles said.
Back-to-back, one-out walks in the fifth, to the last two batters in the order, brought pitching coach Chris Holt to the mound. A popup and ground ball ended the threat with Lyles at 90 pitches.
Two ground balls in the sixth were followed by Lowe’s single and the fourth walk issued by Lyles, who also is a trade chip and perhaps on the move.
Would he like to stay?
"Yeah, 100 percent," he said. "My thoughts would have probably been a little different in spring training or this offseason, knowing where we ended up last year as an organization. But these guys are good, this is a real ball team.
"I would love to be here. I've enjoyed my time. I enjoy throwing to Robby (Chirinos) and Adley (Rutschman). I enjoy the staff. I enjoy Hyder. There's a lot of things to enjoy. I've enjoyed the atmosphere that these last two months have brought for me personally and this team."
Hays was hit by another pitch today, this one a Ryan Yarbrough cutter into his lower back in the third inning. Hays again expressed his frustration as he dropped his bat, but at least his hands and wrists were safe.
Those are the usual targets. The ribs also are vulnerable.
Hays, Mancini and Santander are tied for the team lead with nine. The Orioles have been hit 61 times, most in the American League and tied for second in the majors.
Santander doubled into right field after Hays stole second base, and the Orioles led 1-0. Like Mancini earlier, it was the proper response.
Yarbrough retired the next eight batters before Santander singled with one out in the sixth.
The day began with Sonsy Gaba throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Mancini. Her son Mo, the beloved Baltimore sports super fan, died two years ago today at age 14 after a life-long battle with cancer.
The Orioles honored him this afternoon with Mo Gaba Day at Camden Yards.
“Mo was a fighter and we miss him dearly,” Hyde said, “and I think he’d be really proud of the fight in our team and how we’re playing, and hopefully he’s looking down and smiling watching us play.”
Mancini hugged Sonsy before moving behind the plate, and he signed the baseball.
His signature moment might have come later.
"I had some help from somebody. That was absolutely insane," Mancini said, wearing his Mo Strong t-shirt and displaying his Mo Gaba bobblehead in his locker.
"I'd like to thank Mo. That was crazy. I'm kind of at a loss for words that that happened.
"That was one of the coolest things I've been a part of, and for it to come that at-bat, and especially on Mo Gaba Day, it's been two years since we lost him, and it makes it that much more special."
"On Mo's day, Trey gets one of those unique hits," Hyde said. "Lost in the sun, or lost somewhere up in the air."