5-run sixth propels Orioles past Red Sox

BALTIMORE - The no-hitter buzz Boston pitcher Aaron Cook was creating peaked in the sixth inning.

That's when the Orioles finally figured him out.

Cook went from flirting with the second no-no in Camden Yards history to finding a spot on the bench while Baltimore batted around and battered the Red Sox en route to a 5-3 victory before a crowd of 22,269.

The Orioles' third time through the lineup was all it took to solve Cook, who was making his Camden Yards debut. Cook could barely miss at first - 13 of the sinkerballer's first 16 outs were groundouts - but suddenly the home team changed things.

Cook (3-6) tossed 5 1-3 hitless innings before J.J. Hardy lined a single into left field. Nate McLouth added a single that scored Nick Markakis, who had walked with one out, and Hardy went to third.

Adam Jones came up next and hit a comebacker to Cook, but he threw wide of second base trying for the double play and the ball skipped into shallow left field. Hardy scored to tie the game at 2-2.

Matt Wieters gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead with a ground-rule double to left, then Mark Reynolds stayed hot at the plate with a double that scored Wieters and Chris Davis.

After 10 batters came to the plate, Baltimore had scored five runs on five hits and Cook's no-hitter was long forgotten. It was yet another game in which the Orioles (64-53) rallied to win, a feeling that seems to linger in the dugout and the clubhouse.

"I feel like we just don't give up," Hardy said. "We know that at any point we can go out there and score runs even if we haven't scored in the first four innings, we know we can go out there and put a five-spot up in one inning."

Baltimore has won 12 of its last 16 games against Boston, which fell to 57-61 and lost Adrian Gonzalez and Bobby Valentine to ejections in the top of the eighth.

Gonzalez made the first out in the inning and trotted back toward the Sox dugout, chirping at home plate umpire Mike Everitt about Orioles reliever Pedro Strop throwing a pitch before he was ready to hit. Gonzalez made it inside the dugout before Everitt tossed him, and Valentine came out to defend his first baseman to no avail.

"My guess was he was kind of mad at the quick pitch," Strop said. "He was arguing with the umpire saying that it was illegal. Something like that. But I haven't got told that it's illegal. So if it's been working, I'm going to keep doing it."

While Cook didn't make it out of the sixth inning, Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez put together his third straight quality start and improved to 5-2. He scattered six hits and gave up two runs in six innings, and said watching the offense break the game open in the sixth was comforting.

"It was great," Gonzalez said. "Markakis got on, McLouth came in and did his job. Wieters and all the other guys did a great job, as well. I give them the props for what they did in the sixth inning. It was fun to watch."

Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak against Baltimore to 38 consecutive games with an RBI ground-rule double to right-center in the fifth. Carl Crawford followed with a sacrifice fly to center and Boston led 2-0.

The lead didn't last long.

J.C. Romero came on for Gonzalez and allowed an unearned run in the seventh, but that was all Boston could muster. Luis Ayala, Strop and Jim Johnson shut down the Red Sox from there and Johnson converted his 35th save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning - the final out coming thanks to Manny Machado's diving stop on Nick Punto's low liner toward the bag at third.

The Orioles are 4-0-1 in their last five series and can sweep the Sox with a win today, which would wrap up a 10-game homestand in a positive fashion.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter admitted he takes a peek at the standings, where his team currently leads the wild-card race thanks to Wednesday's win and Tampa Bay's loss. But Showalter said there's plenty of baseball left to play.

"Things can change so quickly in a week's time," he said. "Boston could win their next seven games and they're right there. I guess that's why it's designed like that. Should be a lot of fun for the fans. I don't know about for the managers. I've learned that you just try to stay away from it as much as possible and focus on what we have to do every day.

"I'll say again: Our intent and our focus is on trying to catch the team ahead of us."