ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Chris Davis homered for the sixth straight game and the Baltimore Orioles overcame a club-record 15 strikeouts by Tampa Bay pitcher James Shields to beat the Rays 1-0 Tuesday night, pushing the AL East race to the final day of the season.
Baltimore began the night one game behind the first-place New York Yankees, who were tied with Boston in the ninth inning.
Orioles rookie Miguel Gonzalez (9-4) limited the Rays to two singles over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander walked two and struck out seven before manager Buck Showalter turned the game over to the bullpen.
Davis joined Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson as the only Baltimore players to homer in six consecutive games, connecting off Shields (15-10) in the fourth. The Orioles managed only one other hit — Nate McLouth’s sixth-inning single — in Shields’ 19th career complete game and third this season.
The Orioles, guaranteed at least a wild-card spot, clinched their first playoff berth in 15 years late Sunday.
The Rays won the opener of the three-game series Monday night to extend a late surge that kept them in contention for the second AL wild card, but they were eliminated from postseason contention when the Oakland Athletics beat Texas a few hours later to assure themselves a trip to the postseason.
Brian Matusz replaced Gonzalez after the starter struck out Jeff Keppinger to begin the seventh. Darren O’Day worked the eighth for the Orioles, and Jim Johnson finished the two-hitter for his major league-leading 51st save.
Gonzalez pitched seven scoreless innings in his only previous start at Tropicana Field on Aug. 5, but was not involved in the decision in a game the Orioles won 1-0 in 10 innings. He limited the Rays to two hits and four walks in that outing and was even tougher on them this time.
Evan Longoria singled leading off the second against the right-hander. B.J. Upton drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and was stranded at second when Longoria flied out and Keppinger struck out. Chris Gimenez opened the sixth with Tampa Bay’s second hit, and Gonzalez walked Ben Zobrist with two outs before fanning Longoria to end the threat.
Shields was just as impressive, retiring nine in a row before giving up Davis’ 33rd homer. The right-hander whiffed seven of the last nine batters he faced to finish with a flourish.
NOTES: All-Star closer Fernando Rodney was selected as the Rays’ team MVP in a vote of local baseball writers covering the team. If the right-hander doesn’t give up an earned run in Wednesday night’s season finale, he will set a major league record for the lowest ERA by a relief pitcher working a minimum of 50 innings. Rodney got his 47th save Monday, lowering his ERA to 0.6053 in 74 1-3 innings. Dennis Eckersley set the record of 0.6136 for Oakland in 1990. … Rays pitchers have struck out 10 or more batters in a game 60 times this season. … Orioles RHP Jason Hammel, who threw a bullpen session Monday, is no longer restricted by his knee injury and is an option for the Orioles in the postseason, manager Buck Showalter said. … RHP Kevin Gausman, Baltimore’s first-round draft pick out of LSU, visited the team and said he hopes to pitch in the big leagues next year. “That’s one of my goals, but it’s not up to me,” the 21-year-old said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)