On a night when the Baltimore Orioles had all sorts of problems with runners on base, Chris Davis finally delivered the pivotal hit.
It wasn’t a thing of beauty, especially from the major league leader in home runs. Not that the Orioles cared.
Davis singled home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the 13th inning, giving Baltimore an exhausting 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series between AL East contenders.
Danny Valencia homered for the Orioles, who moved into second place and within 2 1/2 games of Boston. Baltimore won despite leaving 16 on base and going 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
With two outs in the 13th, Nick Markakis drew a walk from Alex Wilson (1-1). Adam Jones singled and Davis followed with an opposite-field pop that landed in front of left fielder Daniel Nava.
”Sometimes, that’s what it takes,” Jones said. ”I looked up there and saw we left 16 guys on base. We had some opportunities but we didn’t cash in. Hey, that’s why we keep grinding. We never gave up.”
In his previous few at-bats, Davis tried to end the game with power. In the 13th, he changed his approach.
”I took a few swings late in the game where I was just swinging way too hard, trying to win it with one swing instead of just trying to put the ball in play,” he said. ”Good things happen when you simplify it.”
T.J. McFarland (1-0) pitched the 13th to earn his first major league win. The Orioles used seven pitchers, none of whom issued a walk, and held Boston without a hit after the seventh inning.
”The zeros were awesome, but I think the most impressive part was no walks in 13 innings,” Jones said.
It was the longest game of the season for Baltimore, in terms of innings and time (4:35). Boston went 14 innings on Monday in Tampa Bay.
David Ortiz hit his team-high 14th home run for the Red Sox, and Mike Carp followed with a long ball of his own. But Boston sputtered over the final six innings.
”They were able to make good pitches,” said Will Middlebrooks, who went 2 for 5. ”They were able to throw all their pitches for strikes. They were getting ahead of us.”
Baltimore is the only AL East team that Boston has a losing record against (1-3). The Orioles’ latest win can be attributed mostly to solid pitching.
”To their credit, they came in, pounded the strike zone, didn’t give us many opportunities that we didn’t earn by virtue of a base hit,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Orioles rookie Kevin Gausman allowed two runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in his fifth big league start, striking out five and walking none. The 22-year-old left the mound with a 4-2 lead and in position to earn his first career win, but the bullpen gave up the advantage.
Gausman, the fourth pick in the 2012 draft, never pitched above Double-A before making his debut with Baltimore on May 23. He has a 1.54 ERA in two home starts and is 0-3 with a 12.15 ERA on the road.
After the game, he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, presumably because the Orioles need help in the bullpen. The corresponding move will be announced Friday.
Boston tied it at 4 in the seventh against Brian Matusz. Three straight singles loaded the bases for Stephen Drew, who hit a sacrifice fly. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice, barely beating the relay to first base.
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront allowed three earned runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing since May 3.
Baltimore took a 3-0 lead in the third. Valencia led off with his fourth homer, Ryan Flaherty doubled and advanced on a bunt before Manny Machado pushed a broken-bat RBI single up the middle. Singles by Markakis and Davis produced another run.
Gausman retired seven straight batters before Ortiz and Carp connected in succession with two outs in the fourth. Carp entered in the third inning for starter Mike Napoli, who left with an unspecified illness.
In the Baltimore fifth, Markakis reached on an error at third by Middlebrooks and Doubront hit Jones with a pitch before Matt Wieters grounded an RBI single into left, his first hit against Doubront in 13 career at-bats. After a walk to J.J. Hardy loaded the bases, reliever Franklin Morales retired Valencia on a popup.
NOTES: The Red Sox recalled Wilson from Triple-A Pawtucket and optioned RHP Alfredo Aceves to the same club. … Ellsbury’s 11-game hitting streak ended, as did his streak of 10 games scoring a run. … Farrell announced Jon Lester will start Sunday’s series finale. Clay Buchholz was pushed back to Tuesday at the earliest because of a sore neck. ”We won’t put him out there until he’s symptom-free,” Farrell said. … Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 22 straight games for the Red Sox.