Carroll County Times

Orioles: Jones, Davis homer, bullpen prevails

BALTIMORE - Struggling with runners in scoring position and ineffective pitching weren't pressing matters for the Baltimore Orioles, at least for one night.
Not with their offense doing what it does best.
Chris Davis and Adam Jones each hit home runs and Wei-Yin Chen snapped a three-game losing streak in Baltimore with a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay in front of 28,323 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (68-58) salvaged the final game in their series against the Rays and gained some ground in the wild-card race.
"It was big, not getting swept and to carry a little bit of momentum into the off day," said Davis, who collected his major-league leading 46th home run. "We've got another big series here with Oakland coming in to town. ... It was good to get at least one game from these guys."
Chen (7-6) got through seven innings before the bullpen took over - without embattled closer Jim Johnson entering the game. Darren O'Day, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter finished the game, but not without a little drama.
O'Day tossed a perfect eighth inning but allowed a single to Wil Myers to start the ninth. Orioles manager Buck Showalter went to Matusz against Rays lefty James Loney, a pinch-hitter, and the two waged an 11-pitch battle before Loney walked.
Tommy Hunter replaced Matusz and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon went to his bench for Matt Joyce, another left-hander. Hunter got Joyce to fly to center and Kelly Johnson, the third straight Rays pinch-hitter, to ground into a fielder's choice.
Jose Lobaton came up with runners on first and third and the Rays took a chance by having Johnson try to steal second. But catcher Matt Wieters threw Johnson out to end the game, with shortstop J.J. Hardy making a nifty tag, and Hunter earned his fourth save.
"Johnson got a pretty good jump but I was just going to try to throw it as hard as I could and really all the credit goes to J.J.," Wieters said. "That's one heck of a pick he made."
Chen won for the first time since July 30, and he used defense to aid him. The left-hander turned a pair of double plays himself - the second of which ended the seventh - and got another twin-killing along the way.
Chen's outing allowed Showalter to manage the bullpen and avoid using Johnson, who has blown three consecutive save chances.
"If he has a five- or six-inning exit, it's tough for me to match up there at the end," Showalter said. "It just doesn't fit. That was the key part, only needing to get six outs."
Davis led off the fifth with a towering homer onto Eutaw Street to give Baltimore a 4-2 lead. Davis tied Jim Gentile (1961) for third most homers in a season in Orioles history. Only Brady Anderson (50, 1996) and Rafael Palmeiro (49, 1966) have hit more, but Davis played down his accomplishment.
"It means we put up one run on the board and we were able to get the win," he said. "That's the biggest thing. Obviously team goals come before individual goals. I'm happy to be swinging the bat well, I'm even happier to get the win."
Sean Rodriguez greeted Chen in the fourth with a leadoff blast to center, and the Rays cut the deficit to 3-2. Chen allowed a one-out single to Lobaton but induced a 1-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.
Jones opened the third with a mammoth homer (an estimated 446 feet) to straightaway center, his 26th of the season, and the Orioles led 3-1. Jones is batting .407 with two homers, and six RBIs on this homestand.
Baltimore took advantage of an ineffective Jeremy Hellickson (10-7), who didn't make it out of the fifth inning and allowed seven hits and four runs.
Nate McLouth ended a 0-for-17 slump with a leadoff single in the first, which sparked a bases-loaded, no-out beginning for the Orioles.
Jones drove in the first run on a fielder's choice, before he and Davis pulled off a double steal with one out.
Wieters' long fly out to center brought Davis home, and Baltimore led 2-0 - the Orioles' first lead of the series.
It wasn't a series win - pushed aside for now was Baltimore's 3-for-24 performance with runners in scoring position against the Rays - but the Orioles took a victory into another big matchup beginning Friday with Oakland, the second wild-card team as of today.
"To get another one before the day off, that's pretty big," Hunter said. "We come in and get a couple of wins in this next series, that's pretty big, too."
NOTE: Phyllis McKenzie of Pleasant Valley, the Miss Maryland Agriculture winner for 2012, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. McKenzie is a Francis Scott Key High School graduate.