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Orioles: Davis delivers in key situation

BALTIMORE — The Orioles were in need of a big hit with a runner in scoring position, and Chris Davis finally gave them one.

Baltimore had but one "RISP" hit in 11 tries Friday night against Toronto, a shutout loss. On Saturday, the Orioles were hitless in six such attempts until Davis stepped to the plate in the fifth inning against Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer left one up in the zone, and Davis didn't miss it.

His two-run homer was clutch in Baltimore's 3-2 win in front of 33,901 at Camden Yards.

It hasn't been quite the same start to this year for Davis, who had 22 homers at this point of 2013 and finished with a team-record 53. The slugger was sitting on 10 home runs, and 0 for 9 in this four-game set with the Jays before connecting off Dickey into the Orioles bullpen.

Adam Jones scored on the homer — he reached on a throwing error and advanced on the wild throw, all the while colliding with first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt when he took off for second.

"There's no change in my approach and my work," said Davis, who is batting .228 with 33 RBIs. "I've been doing everything I can to try to get back to feeling good in the box. I felt the last couple of days I've started to click a little bit. Didn't have a lot of show for it. But it was big."

Big for the Orioles, who improved to 35-32 and have won two of three against first-place Toronto. And big for starter Bud Norris, who ran his record to 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA at home this year.

Norris (6-5) went 6 2-3 innings and struck out five before leaving the lead up to four relievers and some heady defensive plays to preserve the win.

Darren O'Day plunked Jose Bautista on the first pitch to open the eighth inning, and with one out Edwin Encarnacion doubled down the left-field line. Bautista tried for home as Nelson Cruz's throw came in to J.J. Hardy, and Hardy fired to catcher Nick Hundley just in time to nail Bautista at the plate.

Jays manager John Gibbons asked for a replay challenge, arguing that Hundley blocked the plate. After a 1-minute, 41-second delay, the call was upheld.

Brett Lawrie came through with a two-out RBI single against Ryan Webb, trimming the lead to 3-2, but Cruz showcased his defense once more with a sliding catch of Josh Thole's liner to left that ended the frame one batter later.

"We got burned by the home run ball," Gibbons said.

Zach Britton pitched the ninth and earned his seventh save of the year, ending the game on a 6-4-3 double play after walking Jose Reyes with one out.

Norris retired 10 in a row in the middle innings but left in the sixth after allowing singles to Anthony Gose and Reyes. Showalter went to O'Day to face Melky Cabrera, and O'Day won the battle with a grounder to Hardy to end the inning.

Delmon Young and Ryan Flaherty singled with one out in the fourth, and Young's baserunning gamble to third on Flaherty's shallow hit paid off. Nick Hundley's fly out to center then traveled deep enough to score Young, and Baltimore tied the score at 1-1.

"Any time the ball kind of takes away from a thrower's momentum, you've got a chance to give it a shot," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Young's hustle play. "Especially with one out, you don't mind taking a pop there."

Toronto took a 1-0 lead in the second when Norris walked Thole with the bases loaded – Norris gave up singles to Adam Lind and Encarnacion, and hit Lawrie with one out before losing Thole.

The Orioles had runners on second and third with no outs in the first, a Nick Markakis single and Manny Machado double, but Dickey got Jones, Davis, and Cruz in order after that. It looked as if the "RISP" trend would continue (0 for 2 in the third, 0 for 1 in the fourth) until Davis' big fly.

The home run gave Baltimore a chance to win the series with Chris Tillman set to start Sunday.

"These games start to gain a real importance, especially going into the All-Star break," Jones said. "We've got a strong lineup. Got a tough road ahead of us until the break, so we need to kick it in gear and continue to play our style of baseball."

NOTE: The Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game is scheduled for Sunday following the Orioles-Blue Jays game. Recent Winters Mill graduate Isaiah Pasteur, the Times' Baseball Player of the Year, is a member of the North all-star team.

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