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10/02/2012 11:23 PM EDT
Davis homers again, Orioles edge Rays 1-0
BALTIMORE 1, TAMPA BAY 0

By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Another one-run victory by the
Baltimore Orioles pushed the AL East race to the final day of
the season.



Chris Davis homered for the sixth straight game and the Orioles
overcame a club-record 15 strikeouts by Tampa Bay pitcher James
Shields to beat the Rays 1-0 Tuesday night.



Baltimore remained one game behind the first-place New York
Yankees, who rallied late to beat Boston 4-3 in 12 innings. The
Orioles, already assured a playoff spot, need a victory
Wednesday and a Yankees loss to force a one-game tiebreaker for
the division title Thursday at Camden Yards.



"We're not supposed to be here. So just go out and have fun and
see what happens," closer Jim Johnson said after the Orioles
improved to 29-9 in one-run games.



"You have to win those games," he added. "If you're able to keep
it close, you just try to find a way."



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.



"He made one mistake, and fortunately Chris was on it,"
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.



The Rays have lost 1-0 five times since Aug. 5 - twice to the
Orioles.



"I hung a changeup. He's a pretty good hitter. I think that was
probably the farthest home run I've ever given up in my career,"
Shields said. "I sent the bat boy over and told him to tell him,
`Can you hit it any farther?' Just joking around a little bit.
He said something like, `I'm sorry. I'll go and try and hit it
480 feet next time.' I thought that was pretty funny."



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 at least a wild card.



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 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 11 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.



"I knew this was my last game and I wanted to let it all hang
out. I wanted to end on a good note, end on a bang," Shields
said. "That was probably the best game of my career."



Davis homered over the center-field wall on a 1-1 changeup with
two outs in the fourth. Jackson homered in six straight games
for the Orioles in July 1976.



"It kind of blows my mind to even be mentioned in the same
breath as Reggie, but it's more about the win than anything
else," Davis said. "I'm kind of glad to be the guy that's coming
through in this situation, but as long as we get the win I don't
care."



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, 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.

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