The Orioles keep dismissing the spoiler angle, stressing there is no burning desire to beat contenders down the stretch.
Ultimately, in the final stanza of another disappointing season, these victory-starved Orioles simply want to win, no matter whom they play. It just so happens that their recent triumphs are coming against clubs fighting for the postseason, like Tuesday's 7-5 comeback against the Boston Red Sox.
"Just the situation they are in and our situation, it's a little added bonus," said first baseman Mark Reynolds, who had two hits, including a two-run single, in his first game since getting plunked in the head Saturday. "But there's no extra incentive to go out there and try to spoil their season. We're just trying to play good baseball and win games."
The Orioles (64-90) have won two of three against the American League wild-card-leading Red Sox this week -- their first two wins at Fenway Park all season -- and six of their past eight against the Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays.
"We know [the Red Sox] are in the race. We know Tampa Bay is on their butt. We know [Los Angeles] is right there," Reynolds said. "That's not our motivation. Our motivation is to go out and do what we are paid to do and play the game we love."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter doesn't like the "spoiler" label but acknowledges that the charged atmosphere of meaningful September games certainly doesn't hurt his club.
"I think the energy, the emotion of the game play well for us because we have kind of identified our lot for the season," said Showalter, who left in the fifth after being ejected for the third time this season. "I think anything that kind of brings out
the competiveness of the game [is good]."
With starter Rick VandenHurk lasting just three-plus innings and allowing five runs (four earned), the Orioles were stuck in a 5-4 hole until the eighth, when they rallied against Boston relievers Daniel Bard (2-9) and closer Jonathan Papelbon, who attempted to get a five-out save.
But Robert Andino's three-run double down the right-field line sunk the Red Sox (88-67), who are holding on to a two-game lead over the Rays.
"We got nothing to lose," Andino said. "So we just go out there have fun, keep battling. Our [relievers] kept us in it today, and we came out on top."
Orioles relievers Jo-Jo Reyes, Clay Rapada, Willie Eyre (2-1), Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson (eighth save) combined for six scoreless innings.
This one seemingly had turned in the fifth with the Orioles trailing by a run. Vladimir Guerrero singled to lead off the inning, then, on a 3-2 pitch, attempted to steal second.
Matt Wieters appeared to check his swing for ball four, something that was confirmed by plate umpire Mark Wegner. But, on an appeal, Wegner pointed to third-base umpire Chris Guccione, who rung up Wieters.
Meanwhile, Guerrero reached second before the ball, then appeared to initially slide past the bag while shortstop Marco Scutaro missed the sweeping tag. Second base umpire Mike Winters called Guerrero out -- to complete the strange strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play.
Showalter darted from the dugout and was tossed by Guccione -- the second time he's been ejected at Fenway Park this season. On July 10, he was automatically ejected when Michael Gonzalez threw behind David Ortiz after both sides had been warned.
"Take your pick, I think it was strikes," Showalter said about his ejection. "I think it was arguing balls and strikes, I don't know."
The double play looked pivotal when the next batter, Adam Jones, singled off the Green Monster. At the least, it would have loaded the bases with no outs. Instead, Jones was on first with two outs, and he was promptly caught trying to steal second.
The Orioles took the lead in the third on four runs against former Oriole Erik Bedard, who had trouble finding the plate. The oft-injured lefty threw 76 pitches (47 strikes) just 2 2/3 innings in his first outing since Sept. 3.
Bedard served up a two-out RBI double to former teammate Nick Markakis but would have escaped the inning if right fielder Josh Reddick hadn't misplayed Guerrero's liner. The error scored Markakis and kept the inning alive. Bedard walked two consecutive batters to load the bases, and Reynolds followed with a two-run single.
The Orioles' bullpen then held steady until Andino could deliver the game-winner.
"[Andino] had a great AB against Papelbon and got a big hit for us," Reynolds said. "It seems like we do that every now and then lately. But we need to get more consistent about coming back and winning games."
Notes: Second baseman Ryan Adams is dealing with a sports hernia and could be shut down for the remainder of the season to have surgery. Showalter said surgery has not been scheduled. Adams should be ready for spring training.
Jones, who is dealing with a sprained right thumb, hadn't started since Sept. 9.
Reynolds hadn't played since he was struck in the head with a pitch Saturday.
Showalter still will not rule out using Johnson as a starter on the final days of the season, assuming the games don't have a potential impact on the playoff race. Johnson remains a leading candidate for save situations this month, but Kevin Gregg and others could also get opportunities.
Brian Matusz's 10.68 ERA in 11 starts is the highest single-season mark in baseball history for someone with 10 or more starts, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was held by two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, when he had a 10.64 ERA in 19 games (13 starts) for the 2000 Toronto Blue Jays.
The Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander will go for his 25th win in his final start, which is slated for Saturday against the Orioles.