He walked through the tunnel, from one clubhouse to another. That’s what Bud Norris did after learning Wednesday that the Orioles had acquired him from the Astros. A day later, he was on the mound at Camden Yards, wearing an Orioles uniform, pitching for a contender, facing his old teammates.
After weeks of anticipation, this year’s trade deadline was a bigger flop than The Lone Ranger — but one of Wednesday’s few deadline deals has already paid dividends. In his first start for the Orioles, the 28-year-old right-hander dominated the Astros, allowing two runs and striking out a season-high eight in six innings. Baltimore rolled to a 6-3 win to stay 5 ½ games back of first in the AL East, as the Red Sox won in dramatic fashion, by scoring six runs in the bottom of the ninth to overcome a 7-2 deficit in the ninth.
The Orioles ended a painful 15-inning scoring drought, slumping Chris Davis ripped his major-league leading 39th home run off Travis Blackley in the seventh inning and drove in his 100th RBI of the season (it’s the first 100-RBI season for the Orioles since 2009), and Jim Johnson earned his major-league leading 37th save.
But the night belonged to Norris. A victim of poor run support in Houston — he went through a 14-game stretch where the Astros scored three runs or fewer for him — Norris was scratched from his Tuesday start for the Astros, with the trade rumors swirling, before taking the mound in Baltimore on seven days rest. Norris is not an ace. He’s not even a top of the rotation starter. But the right-hander stabilizes a rotation that suddenly seems thin with Jason Hammel going to the DL. The Orioles officially welcomed Norris with a shaving-cream pie in the face as he was answering questions during his postgame interview.
Norris and the O's win is yet another reason to believe we’re in for a terrific wild card race in the AL. Entering Friday’s games, six teams were within 4.5 games of each other. The Indians have won eight straight games. With nine straight wins, the Royals are suddenly in the hunt. The Rangers, winners of four straight, are heating up as well. And then there are the Orioles, who won’t go away. With their win over the Astros, they’re a half game back behind the Rays and Indians for the wild card, very much in the thick of things.