ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez pitched extremely well tonight, but he had to appreciate the gem spun by Tampa Bay's James Shields.
"I was like, 'He's doing great. I've got to do better than him,' " Gonzalez said. "I think he did a pretty good job going out there and throwing a complete game. I'm happy for him. Fifteen strikeouts for him. He did a great job tonight."
Gonzalez is so calm on the mound, I keep waiting for a member of the medical staff to rush out to the mound and check his pulse.
"I'm calm when I'm out there pitching," Gonzalez said. "I'm actually nervous when I'm watching the game."
Gonzalez sat in the dugout and watched Chris Davis give him a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning with a 440-foot blast to center field.
"I shook his hand," Gonzalez said, in typical understated fashion. "He's been tremendous this year. Not only him, but the whole team.
"I didn't think that was going to be the only run, but Shields did a great job. He made a mistake on one pitch, and that happens to every pitcher who goes out there."
Three Orioles relievers combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
"It means a lot - means a lot to me and to all the guys who have done a great job this year," Gonzalez said. "I'm not the only one out there. We've been doing great and I say it all the time. All the relievers are doing a great job."
Gonzalez began the season in Triple-A Norfolk's bullpen after signing in March. Now he's a nine-game winner on a team that's headed to the playoffs.
"It's been a long journey," he said. "Just thinking about it in January, not knowing where to go, whether I was going to go to Mexico or play in the states. And having the opportunity to be with the Orioles this year, it's been great. They've redone history. I'm happy for all out players, our staff. I think we've been doing a pretty good job."
Shields said he hung a changeup to Davis and it resulted in "probably the farthest home run I've ever given up in my career."
"I sent the bat boy over and told him to ask him, 'Can you hit it any farther?' Just joking around a little bit," Shields said. "He said something like, 'I'm sorry. I'll try to hit it 480 feet next time.' I thought that was pretty funny."
Davis launched that changeup over the center field fence and onto the roof of the restaurant, just below the scoreboard.
"I'm glad I didn't miss it, because we'd still been playing," Davis said.
Is that the longest home run Davis has hit?
"I hit some long ones in the minor leagues," he replied. "I've played in some good minor league ballparks, though. I can't remember, to be honest with you."
Davis and Reggie Jackson are the only Orioles to homer in six straight games.
"It kind of blows my mind to even be mentioned in the same breath as Reggie," Davis said.
Well, it is October.
"Like I said, it's more about the win than anything else," Davis said. "I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm glad to be the guy in the situation that's coming through, but as long as we're winning, I don't care."
Davis is in quite a groove, with seven homers in his last six games. The baseball must look huge when he's at the plate.
"I don't know if it ever looks like a beach ball, but there are times when you get locked in and you
just feel comfortable at the plate, like any pitch he throws up in the strike zone, you can hit," Davis said. "I felt like that for one at-bat tonight. The other two at-bats, he was dominant tonight."
Jim Johnson had the expected reaction when Davis made contact.
"Wow," he said.
"Actually, we were talking about something like that in BP. (Jason) Hammel was talking about someone who hit a home run dead central, right there in that exact same spot. And, sure enough, he hit it in the exact same spot he was talking about. It was funny that that's the way the game worked out."
Johnson was asked about the bullpen's dominance this season.
"A lot of it is just, I think, a good group of guys, and it goes a long way when you're in it for so many games throughout the season," he said. "We push each other when we have to and we pick each other up when we have to. It's part of that whole team aspect that's not just the bullpen, but the rest of the roster. We've had a lot of guys on the team throughout this year. It's been a lot of different parts to make us where we are."
"When you have a plane scare, I think you bond really close," Johnson continued, laughing. "It's just been fun. The guys, for the people who have been with us the whole year, they see how we act inside the clubhouse. In years past, it hasn't been like that, so we have fun. We're not supposed to be here, so why not have fun and see what happens and let it all hang out?"
Update: Raul Ibanez's walk-off single in the 12th inning gave the Yankees a 4-3 win and kept the Orioles one game back in the American League East with one game to play.