BALTIMORE — The fans at Camden Yards wanted to give Trey Mancini a nice send-off — just in case.
Then the Baltimore slugger lifted a routine flyball to right, and it turned into a wild trip around the bases.
Mancini hit an inside-the-park home run in what might have been his final home plate appearance with the Orioles, and Baltimore blanked the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on Thursday.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words that that happened,” Mancini said.
Jordan Lyles pitched impressively into the sixth for the Orioles, who took three of four from Tampa Bay and went 4-3 on a big homestand against the Yankees and Rays. They have put together a winning record in consecutive months for the first time since 2016 and trail Tampa Bay by three games for the final wild card in the American League — a much better position than expected as the trade deadline approaches.
Lyles (7-8) and Mancini both could be dealt by a Baltimore team that has still seemed to be in a rebuilding mode for much of this season, but with the Orioles now in contention, it’s not clear what they’ll do. Baltimore went on a 10-game winning streak before the All-Star break, then held its own on this homestand against two tough AL East rivals.
Some fans stood and cheered when Mancini came up with one on and one out in the eighth and the Orioles up 1-0. He hit a fly to right, and Josh Lowe had trouble locating the ball and missed it. It hit the left side of his face and bounced away, and Mancini circled the bases.
Mancini, the designated hitter for Baltimore, took a curtain call before the top of the ninth to acknowledge the chanting crowd.
“I was actually down in the tunnel just putting up my helmet and shin guards and my elbow guard, and then Tyler Nevin came down and told me that they were calling my name,” 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.”
Mancini has been a bright spot as the Orioles have gone through a difficult rebuild. He earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in the AL last year after being treated for stage 3 colon cancer.
“He is somebody that has gone through, obviously, what he went through,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “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.”