By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:52 PM EDT, June 16, 2013
One quality that has made Miguel Gonzalez such a valuable pitcher to the Orioles has been his ability to block out distractions. When on the mound, the Orioles right-hander is rarely rattled, and that’s why he’s pitched so well in his brief big league career.
With his wife, Lucia, due to give birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl, in California any day now, Gonzalez couldn’t help but have wandering moments. As Gonzalez pitched against the first-place Boston Red Sox on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards, Lucia had Orioles travel secretary Kevin Buck’s number on speed dial, a cross-country flight ready to be planned at a moment’s notice.
But, on Father’s Day, the expecting dad still managed to perform well, recording his third consecutive quality start in the Orioles’ 6-3 victory in front of an announced 41,311.
“Very appropriate that the father to be had a good day on Father's Day,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “They have a baby as stubborn as Miguel. … When you've been through what he's been through in his life, there's not a whole lot fazes him. He's a quiet, competitive guy, and when you have the background he has, he doesn't take anything for granted. Every pitch. You don't have to talk to him about staying in the moment.”
With the victory, the Orioles (40-30) earned their sixth consecutive series win over Boston — and ninth in their past 10 — by taking three of four from the American League East-leading Red Sox (42-29) this weekend.
The Orioles, who trail the Red Sox by just 1 1/2 games heading into this week’s six game road trip to Detroit and Toronto, have won six of their past seven against Boston at Camden Yards and 14 of their past 19 against the Red Sox overall.
“Any time we can rattle off some wins against a division opponent, it's a good thing — especially these guys, knowing they're in first place,” said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who hit his majors-leading 23rd homer of the season Sunday. “We're definitely happy the way the series went.”
The Orioles handed Boston left-hander Jon Lester (6-4) his first loss at Camden Yards (he was 7-0 with a 2.52 ERA here heading into the day). Lester opened his career 14-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his first 20 career starts against the Orioles — the longest winning streak to open a career of any pitcher against the club — but he is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his past two starts against them.
Backed by Davis’ homer and a four-hit day and sparkling defense from right fielder Nick Markakis, the Orioles outlasted Lester.
Gonzalez (5-2) — who was a Red Sox farmhand before they let him leave as a minor league free agent — held Boston scoreless through his first six innings, the only hits against him a pair of singles from Jacoby Ellsbury.
His only costly mistake on the day was a three-run homer to Will Middlebrooks with one out in the seventh inning. Still, Gonzalez improved his career record against the Red Sox to 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA in four outings.
The 29-year-old has admitted that the impending birth of his daughter has been on his mind in his past two starts,
“It’s a little tough to not think about when you’re out there,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously I do think about my daughter and my wife. You are concerned about those things. ... It could be any day. It’s the first one, and it’s always a struggle. You never know when it’s coming. ...
“Now, I think about it and I can be focused on my baby daughter coming into this world. We’re excited.”
In 17 career starts against the American League East, Gonzalez is 9-3 with a 3.54 ERA and 12 quality starts. In three June starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA.
Davis had been hitless in 14 career at-bats against Lester heading into the third inning. But after Lester fell behind 3-1, the Orioles slugger sent a 91-mph fastball into the flag court in right field for his 100th career homer.
“I didn't actually know that [I was hitless against him] until after my first at-bat,” Davis said. “Went in there and looked at some video just to get an idea of what he'd been doing to me the past. I know I hadn't had a lot of success. Basically [I] just tried to eliminate one side of the plate. I think if you give him both sides and try to hit all those pitches, you make it tough on yourself. I was able to get ahead of him and get a good pitch to drive.”
Davis, who also had an RBI double in the fifth, is batting .343 (12-for-35) over his past 10 games against the Red Sox with seven homers, nine runs and 13 RBIs.
Earlier in the third, the Orioles scored the game’s first run on Adam Jones’ broken-bat RBI double to left field off Lester, who allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings.
“We knew we were going to have to grind him and see if we could work the pitch count, if nothing else,” Showalter said. “We had some balls that weren't hit firmly fall in. But we were fortunate that some balls found spots where we don't normally hit them.”
Manny Machado, who earlier in the day hit his majors-leading 32nd double, gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead in the fifth when he lifted an RBI bloop single to score Markakis, who opened the inning with a chalk-lifting double down the right-field line.
Machado recorded his 29th multi-hit game of the season, also most in the majors, and extended his career-long hitting streak to 14 games.
Markakis had two doubles, scored two runs and made three nice defensive plays in right field, including a diving play on David Ortiz’s hard liner with one on and one out in the eighth inning.
Leading 5-3 in the seventh, the Orioles added an insurance run when Markakis — who hit his second double of the day to open the inning — moved to third on Machado’s sacrifice bunt and scored on J.J. Hardy’s single to left past a drawn-in infield against Junichi Tazawa.
Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter combined for 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, and Jim Johnson retired the Red Sox in order in the ninth for his AL-best 25th save.
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