And this year's version of the Orioles never needed a victory at Fenway Park as badly as it did Wednesday night.
A day after setting a club record with his 51st homer, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis helped his team win with small ball, hitting a two-out, two-run single through the middle of the infield against left-hander Franklin Morales (2-2) in the 12th inning. With their 5-3 win before an announced sellout of 38,540 at Fenway Park, the Orioles moved to within one game of the second American League wild-card spot with 11 to play.
“We've been here before,” Davis said. “I think last year we were obviously really good in one-run games, and I think we kind of learned a little bit about ourselves and what it takes to compete in those games. This year is no different. We know its crunch time right now and that we've got to take whatever we can get.”
The Orioles (81-70) recorded their sixth series win in their past seven trips to Fenway Park and their 14th win in their past 19 games in Boston. Last year they won four games in extra innings here.
Wednesday night, the Orioles went errorless for the 114th game this season, passing the 2008 Houston Astros for the most in major league history since 1900.
The Orioles also got a boost from their bullpen, which pitched 61/3 scoreless innings, including multiple-inning outings by right-handers Kevin Gausman and Tommy Hunter. Closer Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless 12th for his 47th save.
“You're very cautious ... about the health of your bullpen because there's going to come a time in September where you're going to have to go to the crop with them,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I'll tell you I didn't have Darren [O'Day] tonight, but I feel like we'll have him tomorrow. I was trying to get through that game. [Jason Hammel] was getting ready to head to the bullpen the next inning, even potentially [Bud] Norris if it got there. We were trying to stay away from Chris Davis.”
While Showalter jokes about not wanting to use Davis in another late-inning situation at Fenway Park, as he was forced to do last year, the manager was at a loss for words to describe the slugger's production at the plate and first base.
“I'm going to run out of adjectives for what he's done,” Showalter said. “Chris has been solid and he's been consistent. I'll tell you, he made a couple of plays tonight at first base that most people don't make. That's kind of what I dwell on. We don't ever take for granted what he's been doing.”
The Orioles won despite a short outing from starter Wei-Yin Chen, who allowed a career-high 11 hits and lasted just 52/3 innings. He allowed three runs on two Boston homers, striking out five and walking none.
The Red Sox (92-61) had the potential winning run on base to lead off the 10th and 11th innings but couldn't score.
With the potential winning run on first and no outs in the 10th and the Orioles playing a shift against David Ortiz, Hunter induced an unconventional 6-5-3 double play with third baseman Manny Machado making the turn at second. Hunter then got Mike Napoli to flyout to end the inning.
In the 11th, Mike Carp reached on an infield single to second and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. But after issuing an intentional walk to Will Middlebrooks to create a force at any base, left-hander T.J. McFarland (2-1) induced a 4-6-3 double play from Stephen Drew to end the inning.
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy held the Orioles hitless through four innings, but the team rallied to tie the game with two runs in the fifth.
Hot-hitting designated hitter Danny Valencia, who fueled the Orioles' win Tuesday with a ninth-inning triple, opened the inning with a single to left. Matt Wieters then doubling into the deepest part of Fenway Park, into the center-field nook over center fielder Shane Victorino's head to score Valencia. Two batters later, No. 9 hitter Brian Roberts laced a double into the gap in left-center to drive in Wieters and tie the game at 2.
The Orioles took a 3-2 lead with a two-out rally in the sixth off Peavy. Back-to-back singles by Nick Markakis and Valencia set the stage for Wieters, who hit his second RBI double of the night, a ground-rule double down the right-field line that hopped into the stands.
Had the ball not bounced out of play it would have scored two runs instead of one.
Peavy allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings, striking out eight and walking one.
The Orioles fell behind just three batters into the game as Ortiz hit a two-run homer, his 28th of the season, that landed several rows deep to the right of the 380-foot sign in right field.
Chen settled in, retiring eight of nine Red Sox batters before allowing a solo homer to Mike Napoli, a game-tying blast to straight-away center to open the sixth inning.
Later in the inning, Chen was chased from the game after allowing back-to-back two-out singles by Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew.
Gausman, a rookie making just his second back-to-back relief appearance, struck out five of the sixth hitters he faced in two perfect relief innings in the seventh and eighth innings, with a mix of wicked fastballs that reached 99 mph with a slider, changeup and splitter.
Their work gave Davis a chance to be the offensive hero again.
"Anytime you’re in a game like that, you want to be the guy to get the hit, whether it’s a squibber up the middle or a home run," Davis said. "You can feel the intensity with both teams going out there trying to get a run. I’ll take it however I can get it."