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Hal Bodley

Just like Davis, O's magic ride continues

Bodley: Just like Davis, O's magic ride continues

Just like Davis, O's magic ride continues play video for Just like Davis, O's magic ride continues
ST. PETERSBURG -- No offense to Reggie Jackson, but Chris Davis is becoming Mr. October for the amazing Baltimore Orioles.

It was Davis' gigantic home run, both in length and importance, that gave the Orioles a 1-0 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night and kept their hopes of winning the American League East alive.

Davis and Jackson in the same breath?

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Davis, 26, has a long way to go before he's in the same class with the real Mr. October, but the red-hot slugger has homered in six consecutive games and that ties him with the Hall of Famer for the longest such streak in Orioles history. Jackson did it from July 18-23, 1976.

What Davis did on Tuesday night against an almost-invincible James Shields defines the Orioles this season. They somehow find ways to win when they really shouldn't. They've been doing it all year. They might be down, but don't count them out.

Shields has never pitched better, but he lost.

Consider:

No pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1918) has suffered a loss while striking out 15 batters with no walks and just two hits or fewer.

But that was Shields on Tuesday night and the Orioles eked out the win, thanks mostly to Davis and a pitcher named Miguel Gonzalez, who almost went to Mexico this season before Baltimore gave him a chance.

The Orioles, already assured of at least a Wild Card berth in the postseason, were coming off the mat after losing, 5-3, Monday night -- a jarring setback that coupled with the Yankees' thrashing of Boston dropped them a game back in the rugged division race with two to go.

Now, the Orioles will play Game 162 on Wednesday night, needing a victory over the Rays coupled with a Yankees loss to the Red Sox that would force a one-game tiebreaker Thursday in Baltimore for the division crown.

The Yankees came from behind Tuesday night to beat Boston, 4-3, in 12 innings and maintain their one-game lead.

With two outs in the fourth, Davis sent a Shields changeup orbiting to center field for the Orioles' first hit. The only other was Nate McLouth's infield single with two down in the sixth.

"It was a changeup, it was up and I'm glad I didn't miss it, because we might of still be playing if I had," said Davis, co-American League Player of the Week last week. "The fact that I am hot right now at a pivotal point of the season is great as long as we're winning. There are times when you get locked in, you feel comfortable at the plate and feel like any pitch he throws in the strike zone you can hit.

"To be mentioned in the same company with Jackson just blows my mind. It's more about the win than anything else. I'm glad to be part of it and the guy in the situation who's coming through."

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter called Shields' complete-game performance "probably the best pitched game that we've had against us all year. To only throw that many pitches [106] and strike out that many guys, I can only think of one mistake he made the whole night, and fortunately, Chris was on it."

For the Rays, whose season has been marred by a lack of hitting, the setback was the fifth 1-0 loss since the All-Star break.

Manager Joe Maddon said, "To be unable to get that run really typifies what has been going on all year."

The Orioles keep bouncing back, but to the intense Showalter, that's inaccurate.

"This time of the year, it's not a bounce-back game," he said. "It's a show up the next day. The ball quits bouncing here pretty soon. You've got a share at the dance [playoffs], but you've got to improve your chances if you keep winning."

Showalter will begin the Wednesday meeting with his coaches to discuss the makeup of the 25-man playoff roster.

He said making some of the decisions will be difficult, "but if you'd told me before Spring Training started we'd be having this meeting, I'd have been pretty excited about it. We're one down, with one to play."

Gonzalez, one of the Orioles' most important finds during this season, allowed just two hits and struck out seven during his 6 1/3 innings -- and gained his ninth win in 13 decisions.

Keeping pace with Shields was difficult, but "I kept thinking he's doing great, but I have to do better. He pitched a great game, a great job, but I'm speechless right now.

"This has been a long journey. In January, I didn't know where to go -- whether to Mexico or play here in the States. Having the opportunity to be with the Orioles this year has been great. We've made history [returning to the postseason for the first time since 1997]. I'm happy for everybody."

It seems unlikely the Red Sox will be able to stall the Yankees' momentum, but Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said that's not his concern.

"We're not worrying about the Yankees," he said. "We have to take care of our own business."

Which is something the 2012 Orioles have done quite well.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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