The Orioles and Yankees remain in a first-place tie in the American League East, with both teams winning by one run.
The Orioles are 26-7 in one-run games after tonight's 3-2 victory over the Rays.
A win tomorrow will allow the Orioles (80-62) to end their streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons, but the bar has been raised so much higher.
Nate McLouth's walk-off single scored Manny Machado, but it was the rookie's play at third base to end the top of the ninth that prompted the first question to manager Buck Showalter.
Showalter made sure that reporters appreciated shortstop J.J. Hardy's hustle covering third.
"Not to take anything away from him, but how about J.J. Hardy being there?" Showalter said. "Not many shortstops are there to start with, OK? We had a play earlier this year or last year when we had a rundown where they tried to reach out and make contact with him. He's wasn't biting this time. But it was good presence.
"We talk about (Machado's) clock, knowing he didn't have a play there. That was the only chance to get an out. You have a real fast runner there (Rich Thompson) and he's trying to take advantage of it. He's probably going to keep going if (Machado) throws the ball. Manny had a really good night at third. That goes without saying."
McLouth collected two more hits tonight as Nick Markakis' replacement atop the order. He also had two last night.
"It's not really a small sample size if you look career-wise," Showalter said. "This guy has led off a lot and we're fortunate to have John Russell in a lot of ways, but a guy who's really been a voice for me on Nate and what he's best suited to do.
"Nicky was doing so well there, but it was something I had in the back of my mind that I'd kind of like to do. My thought was maybe dropping Nick to three and moving Nate up, but didn't want to mess with it. Nate's one of those guys you feel like you could hit him...he's a baseball player and he could hit one, two or three. Six. He enjoys the competition and you can see it. He's a guy who's constantly engaged into action. Not much gets by him as far as the game within the game. Not just our type of guy, but everybody's type of guy in the game."
Miguel Gonzalez got through six innings after a rough start, another key to tonight's win.
"I think we've given Miguel six days this time and the one thing I've noticed is the first inning or two doesn't always dictate how his outing's going to look at the end of it, so you try to get through that first inning or two without much damage," Showalter said. "Command-wise he wasn't quite there, but it's a real testament to his moxie there."
B.J. Upton homered on the second pitch thrown by Gonzalez.
"A lot of guys get some anxiety going after the (second) pitch you throw ends up as far as that one did," Showalter said. "Luckily, it only counted as one run. You talk about guys who you want to act like have hit a home run before. You also as a pitcher want to act like you've given up one before and it's not that big of a deal. He got right back in the competition, and everything that happened tonight, he was as key to it as anything."
Getting back to Machado, he's been part of a defensive revival in Baltimore. It's no coincidence that the team has played better with Machado at third and Mark Reynolds at first.
"I'm not going to say it hasn't helped," Showalter said. "Mark had another good game for us defensively at first base, but I'm not one of those that says this is the only thing that's made this. We were doing a lot of good things, this team as a group, before Manny got here and before Mark went to first and before injuries. I'm not one of those guys who hangs everything around one thing, but it certainly, so far, has really been a good addition for us."