Davis slices Wild Card deficit to one game
Bullpen tosses six scoreless frames to give offense chance at win
By Jason Mastrodonato / 9/19/2013 12:41 AM ET
BOSTON -- Chris Davis. In the 12th inning. With a weak ground ball.
It was the usual suspect for the Orioles. It wasn't his usual method of attack.
"I'll take it anyway I can get it," he said.
After nearly six full innings of offensive inactivity, as the bullpen did its best Houdini act to keep the Red Sox bats at bay, Davis hit a two-out grounder that scooted through the infield to score two runs as the O's escaped with a 5-3 victory Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
"This is not a team you want to go into extra innings with at this place," said Davis, who pushed his RBI total to 134. "The crowd is always into it. They have guys that can swing the bat well. It's definitely a hostile atmosphere. But our guys are good, they battled, they threw strikes -- which was huge to get ahead -- and really put the pressure on them to get hits."
It hasn't been easy or seamless, but the Orioles have gutted out victories during this stretch run, their second late-inning outburst in as many nights pushing them to within one game of the Rangers for the second American League Wild Card.
While the pitching staff has posted a 3.16 ERA in September, it's been left for dry by the bats. The fourth-best offense in the Majors has fallen back to the middle third this month, when Davis, Manny Machado, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis have uncharacteristically posted batting averages below .250.
The top four batters in the O's lineup went 1-for-21, but for the second straight game, one big hit made all the difference.
"We're just trying to find a way to join the rest of the teams and try to get a chance to roll the dice in October," manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles didn't have any hits until the fifth inning, when Danny Valencia, the team's hottest hitter, started the rally with a leadoff single. Matt Wieters followed with a drive deep to center field, and with the ball eluding the speedy Shane Victorino, Valencia scored from first. Roberts then doubled Wieters home to tie the game at 2.
Valencia kept the next inning alive when he hit a two-out single to move Markakis to second and give Wieters a chance to put the O's ahead, to which he obliged. Wieters cracked a ground-rule double to right as Markakis came in from second.
Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen allowed a career-high 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings, but the only three runs that crossed home plate came off a pair of monster homers by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
"I'm not satisfied at all tonight," said Chen, whose ERA rose to 4.03 as he struggled to hit his locations. "This is the big leagues. I made a couple mistakes and I paid the price. This is a lesson I need to learn and carry on."
Francisco Rodriguez bailed Chen out of a two-on, two-out situation in the sixth. And 22-year-old Kevin Gausman, who was pitching at Louisiana State University last year, struck out five of the six batters he faced over two perfect innings.
"This time of year, stuff plays," Showalter said. "He's pitched in some big venues. Until you go to an SEC game on Friday night against rivals -- he's pitched with high expectations a lot in his career."
Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland and Jim Johnson pitched four more scoreless innings.
Davis' hit sealed the win on a night when the O's were out-hit, 15-10.
"That's a good ballclub across the way," said Red Sox starter Jake Peavy. "We all knew coming into the season what Baltimore could do."
The Orioles have 11 games left to do a little bit more.