Orioles closer Jim Johnson, right, celebrates with catcher Taylor Teagarden after the 5-3 win over the White Sox that sends Baltimore into a weekend series at Yankee Stadium just three games behind New York in the AL East. (Nick Wass/AP)

Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter often has the same reaction when he thinks a question is obvious, when he thinks something is astounding or when he is sidestepping a pointed inquiry — he tilts his head slightly, cocks an eyebrow and utters one word:


With their 5-3 victory over the tough Chicago White Sox on Thursday afternoon, these surprising, befuddling Orioles (72-58) have moved within three games of the American League East-leading New York Yankees, who were idle.

After the victory at Camden Yards — which occurred in front of a season-low, announced crowd of 10,141 — the Orioles boarded a train for a three-game series in New York. If they can orchestrate an improbable sweep, the Orioles, who haven’t sniffed the postseason in 15 years, would be in a dead heat with the Yankees atop the toughest division in baseball in September.

“It will be fun. Could be fun if we win,” Showalter said about going into Yankee Stadium. “Our guys aren’t going up there to experience the atmosphere.”

They did it again Thursday against a White Sox club (72-58) that leads the AL Central and had won six straight heading into Baltimore. The Orioles captured three of the four in this series and went 6-2 in the season series between the clubs.

Zach Britton was the primary reason for Thursday’s win. The 24-year-old left-hander, who has had a mercurial season that included missing the start of the year with a shoulder injury, delivered arguably his best performance of 2012. He lasted a season-long eight innings, and struck out a career-high 10 batters. For the first time this year, he didn’t walk anyone.

Britton (4-1) has won all three of his starts and posted a 1.66 ERA since being recalled again from Class AAA Norfolk on Aug. 18.

But after the superb start, Britton immediately was demoted to Norfolk. It’s just procedural — creating a 25-man roster spot for recently signed veteran lefty Randy Wolf, who will give the Orioles another left-hander in the bullpen. Britton will be back after rosters expand and Norfolk’s season ends Monday, meaning he likely will take his regular turn in the rotation on Tuesday against Toronto.

— Baltimore Sun