O's rally to secure season series over Red Sox
Pearce plates three, including two on go-ahead double in eighth
BALTIMORE -- Led by a three-RBI night from Steve Pearce, the Orioles secured the season series over the Red Sox with a 6-5 win on Saturday night.
A Baltimore team eliminated from the postseason earlier this week has gone 10-8 against AL East champion Boston, clinching its second consecutive season series against the Red Sox for the first time since the 1991-92 seasons. The latest victory, a lead-swapping, bullpen-heavy contest in front of a rowdy crowd of 36,556 at Camden Yards, makes the Orioles (84-77) the only divisional team with a winning record against Boston this season.
"It's very satisfying," Pearce said of playing the part of hero, shaving-cream pie and all, following Saturday's win. "It was almost hard to picture anything good coming out of this year on a personal note.
"I was fighting a wrist injury. Considering the kind of Spring Training I had, the start of the year and I had setbacks all year. ... So on a personal note, it's definitely gratifying, especially in a game like this. It was a fun game out there tonight."
On the disabled list twice with nagging wrist issues, Pearce rejoined the club on Sept. 17. He knocked in three runs for the first time since Aug. 11, 2012, against Milwaukee. It also marked the first time this season that Pearce, who doubled twice, recorded multiple extra-base hits.
"Stevie's a professional hitter. He works hard at his trade," manager Buck Showalter said of Pearce, who was limited to 43 games this season. "Part of the reason why he's been hurt is because he works hard at his trade. His wrists have been ... he kind of overdoes it sometimes to stay sharp. But he's a pro. That's why everybody respects him so much. There's nothing beneath him, and he's always willing to do what's best for the team. That's why he keeps playing and we keep wanting him around."
Down one, Matt Wieters and Danny Valencia opened the eighth inning with singles off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa, prompting Boston manager John Farrell to insert Franklin Morales. After striking out Nick Markakis, Morales watched Pearce -- who fouled off a curveball earlier in the at-bat -- send another curve deep into left field for a two-run double to give Baltimore the edge.
"You got to take advantage of every opportunity," Pearce said of ending the season on a good note. "So for bubble guys, or young guys, it's a good opportunity to show how you can contribute and stuff like that. It's definitely an important time of the year."
Closer Jim Johnson put the finishing touches on the win with his league-leading 49th save, bringing his total to 100 since moving into the closer role full-time last spring.
"He's going to end up leading the American League in saves," Showalter said of Johnson's year, which has been solid despite a few rough stretches. "I'd like to think everybody appreciates how hard that is to do, especially with how many close situations we seem to have."
Tasked to protect a one-run lead, Baltimore reliever Josh Stinson was charged with his first run in 10 outings, serving up Jonny Gomes' one-out RBI single in the seventh. Stinson, who recorded the final two outs of the sixth in place of starter Wei-Yin Chen, allowed a pair of singles to Stephen Drew and Dustin Pedroia, and Gomes punched a ball into left field to chase Stinson in favor of lefty Brian Matusz. Daniel Nava singled off Matusz with left fielder Jason Pridie committing his second error in three games, allowing Pedroia to score the go-ahead run and give the Red Sox the lead.
Showalter brought on righty Kevin Gausman, his third pitcher of the inning, to record the final out, and the rookie followed up with a scoreless eighth.
"I think it is always good when you end on a good note, and that's what we're trying to do," said Gausman, who recorded his third big league win. "We kind of had a little meeting as a pitching staff right before Toronto came into town [on Tuesday]. We thought about [how] an 85-win season is a lot better than 81. So we wanted to finish strong, and everybody kind of put a check mark by their name for next year.
"Everybody just finish strong and go into Spring Training with a good mindset. Everybody can just kind of roll."
The O's chased Red Sox starter Jon Lester after five innings, tagging him for four runs on four walks and nine hits. The scoring started on Pearce's RBI double in the second, and Brian Roberts pushed the lead to 2-0 with a leadoff homer in the third.
After Boston tied it up, Baltimore took back the lead in the fifth on Wieters' one-out RBI single into left field, and Valencia followed with a liner just over the head of Drew to push it to two.
Chen didn't allow a run until the fourth inning, on David Ross' RBI single, and Boston steadily chipped away from there. Chen surrendered a run in the fifth on Pedroia's double, and he exited one out into the sixth following Ross' run-scoring double.
"This is really important to me, to not only go deep but also to limit my pitch count," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin of his to-do list for 2014. "I waste too much pitch count in the first couple innings, and this is a lesson I have to learn. This is my priority next spring to go deeper as a starter."
The 5 1/3-inning start marked the third consecutive game Chen has failed to complete six innings, ending an uneven year for the 27-year-old lefty with his sixth consecutive no-decision. Chen, who missed two months of the season with a left oblique strain, had stretches of dominance, but faded down the stretch, finishing 7-7 with a 4.07 ERA.