"You get deeper in games and you make runs matter and you make runs stand up, there's a [morale] that develops with a club," Showalter said. "Instead of constantly going, 'How much is going to be enough?' you always try to create a margin of error. When you get a tack-on run, it means something. Tommy Hunter pitched seven innings today, and that's as key as anything that happened today."

The Orioles turned in four outstanding defensive plays throughout the middle innings in a scoreless game, none bigger than Nolan Reimold's homer-robbing catch of a ball off the bat of Kurt Suzuki in the fifth.

Suzuki put a charge in Hunter's delivery, but Reimold reached over the left-field fence, extended his glove and brought the ball back into the yard.

Right after that, Jones made a nice backhand sliding catch on Eric Sogard's looper to shallow center.

In the fourth inning, Reynolds started a nice 3-6-3 double play, diving to his left on the edge of the infield grass after holding the runner on, tossing to second, then taking Hardy's throw to complete the double play.

Nick Markakis also threw out Smith at second after Smith's hit bounced off the first-base bag and into shallow right.

"At least I was down in the zone," Hunter said of his outing. "It's still a work in progress. There were a lot of great plays tonight. It was a team win. We pitched all right and played unbelievable defense and hit the ball towards the end of the game."

Hunter was in control against an A's offense with a .203 team batting average -- worst in the AL -- until Cespedes lined a double into the left-field corner, scoring Josh Reddick, who had hit a two-out single, from first in the sixth. Smith then took an 89 mph fastball over the left-center-field fence, the ball landing in the Orioles' bullpen, in the seventh.

The Orioles' bullpen continued to shine, with Darren O'Day and Pedro Strop pitching scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Strop (3-1) put runners at first and second with one out but escaped the jam, setting the stage for a comeback the next half-inning that injected life into Camden Yards.

"Look at the crowd today, yesterday," Hunter said. "I'm sure all the fans are starting to get excited about it. We're excited. Don't get me wrong about it. It's fun to win. It's fun to play baseball. That's what we're going to continue to do, and hopefully the fans come out and support us. It will be fun."

eencina@baltsun.com

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