Last season, the Orioles and Boston Red Sox played four extra-inning games against each other, including games of 17, 13 and 12 innings.
The Orioles won all four, mainly because their stellar bullpen kept compiling scoreless innings until the bats could do their job. The one exception was the Orioles' 17-inning win at Fenway Park last May, when the Orioles needed two scoreless innings from Chris Davis on the mound.
Thursday night, Davis — who has become a star this season with incredible run-production numbers — helped the Orioles' bullpen with his bat, hitting a bloop walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning, giving the Orioles a 5-4 win before an announced 20,098 at Camden Yards.
In winning the four-hour, 35-minute marathon, the Orioles (38-29) not only gained a game on the American League East-leading Red Sox in the opener of this important four-game series — they now trail Boston by just 2 ½ games — but they also moved into second place in the AL East after the New York Yankees' 3-2 18-inning loss in Oakland.
"I think we have a newfound confidence in our division," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "We know that this division is going to be tough. We were cellar dwellars for some years, and now we just want to come out and give it our all every day, especially against the division."
The Orioles continued their recent dominance of Boston, beating the Red Sox for the 12th time in their past 16 meetings. The Orioles have also won nine of their past 13 games against the Red Sox at Camden Yards. They are 5-0 against Boston in extra-inning games since last May.
The Orioles used seven pitchers on this night, and the final five combined to throw 6 1/3 perfect scoreless innings of relief, retiring the final 10 hitters they faced and 18 of 19. The Orioles also issued no walks in the game, marking just the fourth time in Red Sox history that Boston had 45 or more at bats in a game and didn't draw a walk.
"It's going to be coming down to the bullpens, and we did our job tonight, kept in it long enough, let the guys hit," said right-hander Tommy Hunter, who threw 2 1/3 perfect innings of relief.
Nick Markakis drew a two-out walk in the 13th, then moved to second on Jones' opposite-field single to right.
That set the stage for Davis, who had struck out in three of his previous four at-bats. He took a 1-1 fastball from Alex Wilson (1-1) and dropped a game-winning single in front of Jonny Gomes in left, sparking a celebration near first base.
"It was a lot of fun, Davis said. "Obviously both teams were battling out there to get a run and both bullpens [were] pretty stout late in the game. Honestly, I was just trying to get jammed out there, took a few swings late in the game where I was just swinging way to hard, trying to win it with one swing instead of just trying to put the ball in play. Good things happen when you simplify it."
The bullpen kept the Orioles in the game through the late innings and into extras. Darren O'Day tossed a scoreless 10th, striking out Shane Victorino on a 3-2 pitch to strand the go-ahead run at second base.
Jim Johnson needed just 10 pitches to retire the Red Sox (41-27) in order in the 12th, and long-relief lefty T.J. McFarland (1-0) threw a scoreless 13th to earn his first major-league win.
"You've got two teams with great bullpens," Markakis said. "You look at any good team and good teams are going to have good bullpens. You know it's a battle after that. You know after the ninth inning it's hard to come by hits. We were fortunate. We got a nice bloop two-out hit there, good placement and we won the game."
Orioles rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman held the Red Sox to two runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game in order to allow the Orioles to add an extra bullpen arm for Friday.
Gausman managed to keep the Red Sox offense off-balance, utilizing a devastating split-fingered changeup that tailed down and away to left-handed hitters. Four of Gausman's five strikeouts came on the split-change.
Gausman left the game with one on and one out in the sixth, but left-hander Brian Matusz preserved the lead by inducing a popup from David Ortiz and striking out Mike Carp looking. Ortiz is 1-for-16 in his career with four strikeouts against Matusz.
The Red Sox came back from a two-run seventh-inning deficit to tie the game at 4 the next inning, which began with three straight singles off Matusz. They scored one run on Stephen Drew's sacrifice fly to center and tied the game when Jacoby Ellsbury beat out a potential double-play throw to first.
The Orioles orchestrated a three-run rally in the third inning to open the scoring, fueled by Danny Valencia's solo homer to open the frame off Boston starter Felix Doubront.
Valencia's homer was his fourth in 13 games with the Orioles this season. He had just three homers in 44 games with the Twins and Red Sox last season.
Ryan Flaherty immediately followed with a bloop double to left field and, following Nate McLouth's sacrifice bunt, Manny Machado hit a broken-bat single up the middle off the fists to score Flaherty.
Three batters later, Davis drove in his 55th run of the season with two-out single that brought in Machado from third.
The Red Sox rebounded with back-to-back solo homers off Gausman in the fourth inning by Ortiz and Carp.
The Orioles tacked on another run in the fifth on Matt Wieters' two-out single but left the bases loaded when Valencia popped up to short to end the inning off reliever Franklin Morales.