Left fielder Nate McLouth set the tone early with his third leadoff homer of the year, taking a 2-1 pitch from Red Sox starter Zach Stewart into the left-center field seats.

J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis added solo homers and Jim Thome drove in two runs on a pair of RBI singles against Boston’s shift defense.

Davis’ 31st homer of the season opened the fifth and marked his fifth homer in the past four games. Davis has also homered in four consecutive games, tying Nolan Reimold’s team-high mark set April 13 to 17.

Saunders allowed two homers — Cody Ross’ solo shot to lead off the fourth and a two-run line drive to left by Daniel Nava in the seventh — but the 31-year-old left-hander tipped his cap to acknowledge a standing ovation as he walked off the field with one out in the eighth.

Darren O’Day got the final two outs in the eighth — with a little help from catcher Matt Wieters, who threw out Dustin Pedrioa trying to steal second from his knees — and Johnson tossed a perfect ninth to seal the win.

"You want to have the chance to roll the dice in October," Showalter said. "Our guys have played very confidently with no fear."

And after watching a little baseball on the video board, the Orioles traveled to Tampa Bay to face a Rays team that is still pushing for a wild-card spot.

The Orioles' emergency landing in Jacksonville, Fla., was a precautionary move. The plane was inspected and the Orioles reboarded and got back in the air shortly after a brief delay en route to St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport.

A little delay, but after 14 years, what’s another hour?

“We’ve had to fight for everything this year,” Johnson said. “With the way that game finishes up, this [season] is going to come down to the wire. Look at how last year finished, March Madness in September. This game is crazy, you never know what’s going to happen and that’s the way this team has been fighting all year.”

eencina@baltsun.com
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