ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Is Chris Davis the straw that stirs the Orioles' drink?
Davis has joined Reggie Jackson as the only players in Orioles history to homer in six straight games. He drove a ball off the roof of the restaurant in center field after Rays starter James Shields retired the first 11 batters to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
Davis has hit seven homers in the last six games, passing Adam Jones for the team lead with 33 for the season.
Davis was named American League co-Player of the Week yesterday. He must be getting a head start on the next award.
Jackson homered in six straight for the Orioles from July 18-23, 1976. He became a free agent after the season, signed with the Yankees and had a candy bar named after him.
Davis looks like a guy who should have a protein shake named after him. And we know he's not leaving after this season.
Shields was cruising along until Davis stepped to the plate. He threw 29 pitches in the first three innings and struck out Nate McLouth to open the fourth. J.J. Hardy flied to center. So did Davis, except his ball kept carrying and carrying.
Center fielder B.J. Upton took a few steps back, as if ready to camp under the ball. Turns out, he just gave up the chase.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez struck out four Rays in the first three innings, allowing only an Evan Longoria single leading off the second. Upton walked to lead off the fourth, but he was stranded at second base.
The Red Sox lead the Yankees, 2-1, in the fourth inning. An Orioles win and Yankees loss will create another tie atop the American League East.
Update: Davis' home run traveled an estimated 440 feet.
Update II: Gonzalez was sensational tonight, shutting out the Rays on two hits over 6 1/3 innings. He walked two, struck out seven and threw 64 of his 101 pitches for strikes.
Gonzalez retired Jeff Keppinger on a fly ball to center, and Brian Matusz entered with Matt Joyce on deck. Rays manager Joe Maddon sent up Ben Francisco, who struck out. Ryan Roberts bounced to short, and the Orioles carried a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning.
Matusz has allowed two earned runs and five hits in 13 1/3 innings as a reliever, with three walks and 19 strikeouts.
As I wrote earlier today, Gonzalez is trying to join Willis Roberts (2001) as the only Orioles pitchers to beat every team in the American League East in their rookie seasons.
The Red Sox still lead the Yankees 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning.
Update III: Jim Johnson stranded the tying run to record his 51st save, as the Orioles held on for a 1-0 victory.
Ben Zobrist walked with one out, but Longoria flied to right and Keppinger grounded into a force.
The Orioles are 29-9 in one-run games, 74-0 when leading after the seventh, 75-1 when leading after the eighth, and 71-22 when their starter goes six innings or more.
Shields became the first pitcher to strike out 15 Orioles since Pedro Martinez on May 12, 2000.
The Red Sox lead the Yankees, 2-1, in the eighth.