They were the types of at-bats that were missing for much of the season and have become more prevalent as the Orioles continue to find ways to win baseball games rather than lose them.
Nick Markakis was down to his last strike against Boston Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, and he ripped a double off the base of the Green Monster, putting runners on second and third with the score tied in the seventh inning.
Ty Wigginton quickly fell behind 0-2 to Daniel Bard, one of the top setup men in baseball with his near-100 mph heat and his nasty slider, and he worked the count full before bringing in a go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Luke Scott redirected Bard's pitch to right field, the two-out, two-strike single scoring an important insurance run.
The timely hitting in the decisive two-run seventh, coupled with clutch work out of the bullpen, sparked the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Red Sox in front of an announced 37,560 on Monday night at Fenway Park.
"Obviously, a lot of people have had trouble with [Bard]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Ty's not the type of guy that just gives in. He's going to [man] up and compete. That's what you have to do to do what he did. And Luke had a big base hit there."
Scott, the hero of Sunday's come-from-behind victory against the New York Yankees, had two hits and two RBIs, and Markakis smacked two doubles, becoming just the third player in baseball history to hit 43 or more doubles in four consecutive seasons.
Brian Matusz survived a dicey 38-pitch first inning and allowed just one run through five, and three Orioles relievers did the rest. Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save, striking out two and throwing eight of his nine pitches for strikes.
That added up to the Orioles' 11th win in their past 15 games and their 12th victory in their past 19 road games. Now 60-90 on the season, the Orioles evened the season series against Boston at eight games apiece, the most games they've taken from the Red Sox in a season since 2005. They've also won two straight games at Fenway Park for the first time since they took four straight spanning the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
"It's nice getting wins in Yankee Stadium and here in Fenway because they are not easy places to play," said Matusz, who got the no-decision but lowered his ERA against the Red Sox to 2.43 in five starts this season, the lowest mark of any pitcher who has pitched a minimum of 25 innings against Boston this year. In three starts this season at Fenway Park, the rookie left-hander has a 2.00 ERA.
"We are definitely turning the corner for the positive," Matusz continued. "It's a good way to end the season; it's a good way to go out our last couple of months."
Entering the start, Matusz had pitched just one inning over the past 13 days. That was a result of the Orioles going with a six-man rotation and Matusz getting smoked in the left triceps with a line drive off the bat of the Toronto Blue Jays' Yunel Escobar on Sept. 13.
He labored early on, needing 22 pitches to get his first out, and that was after Victor Martinez had tied the score with an RBI single. But miraculously, he allowed only one run in the 38-pitch first.
"It wasn't necessarily Brian's fault -- you have to tip your hat some to the Red Sox -- but he's sitting there at almost 40 pitches," Showalter said. "I was a pitch away from getting somebody up. I wasn't going to let him go much further in the first inning."
Though admittedly without his best stuff, Matusz allowed only three hits and departed the game after the fifth inning with the Orioles clinging to a 2-1 lead. David Hernandez couldn't hold it through the sixth, issuing a one-out walk to Mike Lowell and hitting Jed Lowrie. Bill Hall tied the score with an RBI single that put runners on the corners with one out.
However, Hernandez struck out Jason Varitek and Cesar Izturis threw out Lowrie trying to come home after catcher Matt Wieters had thrown to second to get the stealing Hall.
With the score tied at 2 in the seventh, Brian Roberts worked Matsuzaka, who pitched in and out of trouble all night, for a one-out walk and Markakis doubled, prompting Red Sox manager Terry Francona to hand the ball to Bard.
After fouling off several tough pitches and then laying off a few sliders, Wigginton delivered.
"I was just trying to get a pitch up in the zone," Wigginton said. "It really didn't matter if it was a breaking ball or a heater. I figured I could get it elevated and at least get in the run that way. And sure enough, he left me a breaking ball up, 3-2."
NOTES: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who was originally planning to have a bone spur removed from his right elbow Wednesday, is now leaning against having the surgery. "I don't really want to have it done," said Arrieta, who has been shut down for the season. "I've just never had any pain or any serious soreness for it. I've never spent any time on the [disabled list]. We're getting a second opinion and we'll probably go from there, but I'm leaning toward not having it done.' Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum will review a recent magnetic resonance imaging taken on Arrieta's pitching arm, and the Orioles rookie will go to Los Angeles for a consultation with the noted orthopedist if necessary. ÃÆÃâÃâÃâ¦ Infielder Julio Lugo (recurring headaches) has been cleared to play and should be available to the club today. ÃÆÃâÃâÃâ¦ Showalter said Kevin Millwood will start Wednesday's series finale here and Jeremy Guthrie is tentatively scheduled to pitch in Friday's series opener in Toronto. The club still hasn't informed struggling right-hander Chris Tillman when or if he'll make his next start.