SEATTLE -- When Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter entered Tuesday night's game against the Mariners in the 16th inning, he did so with a little white spot on his cap -- a gift from a late-flying Puget Sound seagull that just happened to drop by and say hello while hovering over the Safeco Field postgame scraps.
It turned out to be another Baltimore good-luck charm in a season full of them.
In other words, this late-September game, this one the Orioles had to win, well, it ended exactly the way they drew it up, right?
Here's the game plan: Spot the Mariners a two-run lead into the ninth inning against a rookie pitcher that can't be touched, tie it up against the closer, and then win, 4-2.
In the 18th inning. After five hours and 44 minutes of baseball. With the winning pitcher for the Birds carrying a little piece of a bird on his size 7 5/8 lid.
"I was minding my own business, not doing anything," Hunter said. "I thought it was [fellow reliever Luis] Ayala throwing stuff at me. You know, he usually does. So I didn't know what it was. I just thought someone threw a piece of gum and hit me. It wasn't a piece of gum, man. Everybody just started dying laughing. Then everybody said it was good luck. Then we won."
OK, maybe this is all more than a bit unusual, but could there be a better word to describe what's going on with this team this year?
With the victory, the Orioles not only moved into a virtual tie for first place in the American League East with the Yankees, who were rained out against Toronto on Tuesday, but they kept making history.
Baltimore notched its 14th consecutive extra-inning win, the longest such streak since the 1949 Cleveland Indians won 17 straight, and the Orioles' magical mystery tour, otherwise known as 2012, continued.
Nate McLouth walked to lead off the 18th against Mariners reliever Lucas Luetge, J.J. Hardy singled him to third, and pinch-hitter Taylor Teagarden blooped an RBI single into right field. Three batters later, an RBI fielder's choice by Mark Reynolds had given Baltimore an insurance run, and after closer Jim Johnson shut the door on the Mariners at 12:55 a.m. PT, the Orioles had upped their record to 84-64 to reach 20 games over the .500 mark for the first time this year.
The Orioles kept their three-game advantage in the Wild Card spot over the Angels, too. Baltimore also improved to 4-61 when trailing after eight innings.
"You'd be real picky to not find something to be proud of during that game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Just when I think they can't top something they've done, they do. The dugout was alive all game. It's a very focused, driven group of guys and it's fun to watch them."
The end result wasn't the only positive, either.
Rookie starter Wei-Yin Chen, who will be counted on under pressure if the Orioles make the postseason, did well in a high-leverage situation. He wasn't efficient, throwing 103 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, but he minimized damage, giving up only two runs, both on a home run by Miguel Olivo in the fourth inning.
The problem for the Orioles in the early going was that Mariners rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was better.
Ramirez, whom Showalter praised before the game, looked every bit as impressive as the billing. He pitched shutout ball through eight until a stirring Baltimore rally materialized in the ninth.
"This guy's pretty good, and you can see why they're so high on him," Showalter said.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty and McLouth hit back-to-back singles, prompting Mariners manager Eric Wedge to pull Ramirez in favor of closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
Two batters later, Chris Davis came through with a two-run single to tie it and set it up for nine more bonus panels.
Matt Wieters caught all 18 innings.
The Orioles used eight pitchers.
Wieters, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and Reynolds each went hitless in seven at-bats, combining for an 0-for-21 night and seven strikeouts.
"A few of us had the best 0-for-7s we've ever had," Jones said. "Long game. Everybody hung in there."
The Mariners did, too. Showalter commended them for their moxie, saying, "There were so many opportunities to give in, and they didn't."
Added Seattle skipper Eric Wedge: "That's a scenario you don't get into too much, but every now and again up here, that does happen. It's tough on both sides, offensively. Everybody wants it so bad."
But in extra innings, nobody wants it -- or gets it, it seems -- more than the Orioles. The players were asked to explain it. Many of them didn't even try.
"It shows resiliency, that's what it is," Hunter said. "Guys want to win. We had goals coming into the season, we wanted to win. We're doing it."
And about that hat?
"I've got a huge dome," he said with a smile, victory ice cream cone in hand. "A large landing zone, I guess. I don't know. That was wild."
Indeed. Just like they drew it up.