The Orioles' magic number for clinching a playoff berth is down to two. If they win tomorrow and the Angels lose one of their doubleheader games, the Orioles clinch. If the Orioles lose and the Angels are swept, they clinch. If the Dempsey's sign on the warehouse lights up in a certain inning...
OK, not that one.
The Orioles have scored 25 runs in their last three games, 21 coming via home runs. Chris Davis had a two-run shot, his 30th homer, and Manny Machado went deep in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie.
Davis has hit in eight straight games, batting 13-for-29 (.448).
"Everybody kind of gets a feel for who they are," said manager Buck Showalter after the Orioles' 4-3 victory over the Red Sox. "I'm more impressed that he's hitting .270. He's in a good place right now. Chris has always been a guy who hasn't had a big dropoff vs. left-handed pitching, which bodes well for him when you're thinking about a guy playing every day. He's in a good place and I think he's not assuming anything or taking anything for granted."
Steve Johnson was charged with three runs in five-plus innings. X-rays taken on his right foot were negative, but he left the ballpark in a walking boot because of a painful bruise.
"Stevie pitched well," Showalter said. "Took some X-rays just to be on the safe side and they were negative. He pitched well and gave us a chance to win. I was proud of his effort again.
"Something that gets overlooked, just a little thing. Fourth inning, Adam Jones ran a routine ground ball out. I'm not going to put a percentage on it, but a lot of people, especially the success he's had and playing in every ballgame, would not have gone down the line like him. He would have had time to jump up and come down on the bag easy and nobody would have said a word, but that meant a run for us. And those are the things that are winning baseball. Seems like a little thing, but I'm telling you, what a challenge it is to do that, especially with the strain he's been under physically this year."
Machado was "a huge contributor tonight on both sides of the ball," Showalter said.
It appears that Machado is able to leave his emotions out of each at-bat, a neat trick for a 20-year-old rookie fresh out of Double-A ball.
"That's easy to say, but it's hard to do," Showalter said. "That clock works not only defensively, it kind of works internally. I don't care how long you've been playing, that's something you've got to grasp to be successful. Slow the game down and stay in the moment, tune a lot of stuff out. It kind of sticks out because you're not used to seeing people with that experience level be able to handle that environment."
Left-hander Brian Matusz retired both batters he faced in the eighth inning, as he continues to make a huge contribution out of the bullpen.
"I feel confident that Brian can defend himself there," Showalter said. "You want him to start the inning out because you don't think they're going to pinch-hit for (Jacoby) Ellsbury, so you're able to control the movement they have and pick your poison because they have all those people on the bench. Brian's got some very big outs for us in key situations the last month and he's carving a nice niche for him."
Tommy Hunter got the win with two scoreless innings. He's also been valuable in a relief role.
"They wanted to contribute and it was frustrating for them and they've kind of carved out a little niche where they can contribute," Showalter said. "And it's who we are. That's where we're going. We're going to try to figure it out from within. Once again, it starts with the starting pitcher getting into the fifth and sixth inning where we can shorten up the exposure situations they may not be good at."
Showalter noticed all the energy in the ballpark with a sellout crowd on the night that Brooks Robinson was honored.
"We had a lot of pressure for us to win with Brooks here," he said. "It was pretty apropos that the third baseman made a couple of really nice plays. I can talk about Mr. Robinson all day long. He makes me swell up every time I see him out there, and just knowing...him being an Oriole and being recognized. You don't have many people like him come your way. That's another great thing about being in the Oriole organization is you get to rub elbows with guys like that. It's special. And there was a little buzz here. You noticed how many people were in the dugout watching that, and they didn't have to be, they wanted to be."
The game included a couple of outstanding plays by Mark Reynolds at first base, including one where he tumbled over the tarp while making the catch.
"If it stayed in the ballpark, Mark was going to get leather on it," Showalter said. "If it didn't stay in the ballpark, he and a fan were going to have a meeting. It's just the way he plays the game."
The Orioles have played the game well enough to post 91 wins and perhaps clinch a playoff berth tomorrow. As someone suggested to him, it's like a storybook season.
"I have a great seat and it's an honor to sit there and watch it and marvel at what these guys can do, especially when certain things start snowballing," Showalter said. "And you create your karma. These guys have done a good job of doing that, where they're expecting good things to happen."