Zach Britton made an ample contribution to the Baltimore Orioles' pennant drive, striking out a career-high 10 over eight innings in a win over the Chicago White Sox.
Then, as his teammates prepared to take a train to New York for a huge series against the Yankees, Britton packed his bags for a drive to Norfolk, home of Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate.
He won't be gone for long.
Britton's stellar pitching performance, along with home runs by Taylor Teagarden and Adam Jones, carried the Orioles to a 5-3 victory Thursday.
Baltimore took three of four from the AL Central-leading White Sox to complete a 5-1 homestand that started with a two-game sweep of Toronto. The Orioles now stand within three games of the idle AL East-leading Yankees, who will be trying to retain that margin in the three-game series that begins Friday night.
"Trust me, this group is going to have fun with it," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles head north with a suitcase full of momentum.
"It's nice to take this one to New York," said Britton, who was optioned to Norfolk after the game to make room for left-hander Randy Wolf, signed Thursday after being cut by Milwaukee last week.
Britton (4-1) gave up one run, seven hits and did not issue a walk. He fanned Dewayne Wise three times and eclipsed his previous single-game career high of seven strikeouts by the fifth inning.
"I think Zach will be back," Showalter said, adding, "Zach was hiding from me tonight."
The Orioles can't wait for his return.
"If he can go out and give you eight innings with no walks, he's going to be hard to beat," Jones said. "That was the most impressive I've seen him."
Britton allowed hits to five of the first nine batters he faced, but finished by retiring 19 of 21.
After Pedro Strop surrendered two singles in the ninth, Jim Johnson got an out, then gave up a two-run single to Alexei Ramirez before striking out Gordon Beckham for his 41st save.
The game drew a crowd of 10,141, smallest of the season at Camden Yards. There should be substantially more fans in the stands at Yankee Stadium.
"Our guys aren't going up there to experience the atmosphere," Showalter said. "They're going to try to compete with the team we're trying to catch."
Ramirez went 7 for 13 with five RBIs in the series, but the White Sox finished 2-6 against Baltimore this season. Chicago next travels to Detroit for a showdown between the top two teams in the AL Central.
"You've got to go in there and put this series behind us and hopefully go into Detroit and play well," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "The Orioles are playing well right now. They have a confidence about them, especially at home. We're out of here now and we have to worry about Detroit."
Rookie Jose Quintana (5-3) allowed five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings, matching the shortest outing of his career. He entered with an 0.88 ERA in day games and was 3-0 with a 3.34 ERA in nine road starts.
His downfall came in the second, when he gave up five straight extra-base hits.
"They got to him in that inning," manager Robin Ventura said. "Everything was kind of up and kind of the same speed, really. They can hit, and they got him."
Teagarden, the backup catcher behind Matt Wieters, came in batting .086 (3 for 35). In addition to his third-inning home run, he also doubled in a run in the fourth.
Chicago wasted a double by newcomer Jose Lopez in the first inning, then scored only one run on four hits in the second. After Pierzynski was thrown out at the plate by Jones trying to score from second on a single to center by Ramirez, Beckham hit a two-out RBI single before Wise struck out with runners on the corners.
Quintana opened by getting eight straight outs before Teagarden hit an opposite-field drive to right, the first of five straight two-out extra-base hits by the Orioles. Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy followed with doubles and Jones hit his career-high 26th home run before Mark Reynolds capped the surge with a double.
Baltimore made it 5-1 in the fourth when Nate McLouth singled and Teagarden doubled to center.
NOTES: The White Sox purchased the contract of Lopez from Triple-A Charlotte, placed C Tyler Flowers on the paternity list, purchased the contract of C Hector Gimenez from Charlotte, moved RHP Brian Bruney (hip) to the 60-day DL and released RHP Gregory Infante. ... Four of Teagarden's five hits this season are for extra bases — two homers and two doubles. ... Orioles DH Nick Johnson, who went on the DL in late June with a wrist injury, is likely done for the season, Showalter said. ... Chicago outhit Baltimore 10-8. The Orioles improved to 18-48 when getting outhit.