Melvin Mora hopped all the way down the third base line, his arms held high in the air. He crossed home plate first, and then came pinch runner Cesar Izturis to join the rest of the players who had gathered to greet the hero of the Orioles' 12-10 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, easily the most improbable win of their season.
Nolan Reimold, whose powerful three-run homer in the 11th inning had just turned a potential gut-wrenching loss into an exhilarating victory, jogged slowly toward home plate, awaiting one beating that he was happy to absorb. The rookie outfielder was jumped on and jabbed by teammates, then hugged by manager Dave Trembley. He was eventually the recipient of a shaving-cream pie in the face from shortstop Robert Andino, who also was targeted and doused with yogurt by catcher Gregg Zaun.
"Been a long time since we had a lot of fun like that," said Trembley, whose team secured its first three-game sweep - and winning streak of that length - of the season, and dealt the Blue Jays their ninth straight defeat before an announced 13,713 at Camden Yards. "That was a lot of fun."
The Orioles (21-26) survived a rocky outing by starter Rich Hill, who didn't make it out of the fourth inning. They battled Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay enough that he exited after seven innings. Entering the game 0-24 when trailing after seven innings, they erased a five-run deficit with five runs in the eighth inning before watching the potential game-winning run (Adam Jones) get thrown out at the plate.
And then, when they again found themselves down thanks to Aaron Hill's two-run homer off Danys Baez in the top of the 11th, they found the resolve to rally for a second time. Nick Markakis, whose RBI double in the eighth inning off Blue Jays closer Scott Downs tied the score, led off the bottom of the 11th with a single. After a popout by Aubrey Huff, Mora and Luke Scott, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs in his return from the disabled list, hit singles, Scott's making it a one-run game.
That brought up Reimold, who had entered the game as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and promptly struck out. He then came to the plate with men on first and second and one out in the ninth and fanned again.
"Those first two-at bats were pretty frustrating for me," said Reimold, 25, who made his major league debut less than two weeks ago. "I had two chances ... and I struck out both times. After my second one, I went out to the field, came back in and Dave [Trembley] sat me down and had a few words of advice for me. He said: 'Forget about it'; I'll get another shot.' "
Reimold was ahead of Toronto reliever Brian Wolfe 2-1 when he sent a screaming line drive toward the left-field wall. Both Trembley and Reimold figured that it would hit the wall and at the very least be a game-tying double. However, it just got over, giving the rookie his fourth home run and the Orioles their first home sweep of Toronto since 1994.
"When you have a young guy that goes through a situation like that - two at-bats where he could have won the game - and he comes up that third time, you want to see him come through so bad," Huff said. "To see that kind of at-bat just shows you [that] he definitely belongs here. You can just see by the way he's swinging the bat. This guy is ready to play here right now."
It was a fitting development for an Orioles team that is slowly undergoing a transformation. Three rookies - Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez - currently man the rotation. Reimold has cemented his place as the team's left fielder, and top prospect Matt Wieters will make his debut behind the plate Friday.
"I was just telling Nicky [Markakis] that this is getting real fun," Huff said. "This is starting to feel like the end of my career in Tampa [Bay], when the young guys are coming up and putting together some real good starts and the young position players are doing well. It seems like every young guy that has come up has done a pretty good job. I know it's early and they are going to struggle at times, but now is the time to get them up and give them a chance."
Reimold had three chances Wednesday, but he eventually got it right. And the Orioles finally got their first sweep and have won five of their past six games.
"This has been one of the best weeks in the last number of years," veteran hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "Everybody feels good about what's happening. Everybody's playing hard to be a part of it."
TV: MASN HD
Radio: 105.7 FM