B.J. Upton doubled twice and took two walks to set a Tampa Bay record by reaching base in nine straight plate appearances as the resurgent Rays beat the Orioles, 5-2, last night in Baltimore for their fifth straight victory.
Ben Zobrist had three hits and three RBIs for the Rays, who have won eight of nine to move within three games of the idle Red Sox in the American League wild-card race. Tampa Bay trailed the Red Sox by nine games Sept. 2.
Upton went 4 for 4 with a walk Sunday against the Red Sox, then reached base four successive times against the Orioles before striking out in the eighth inning. Eight times previously a Tampa Bay player got on base in eight straight plate appearances, the last one Upton in May 2008.
“I just want to help this team whether it’s offensively or defensively, and right now it happens to be on the offensive end,’’ Upton said. “I feel good right now, and I’ll just try to feel good as long as I can. The hits are just falling.’’
Rays starter Jeff Niemann (10-7) gave up two runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings to improve to 7-2 on the road this season. His previous outing, a defeat against Texas Sept. 6, was Tampa Bay’s lone loss in nine games.
Joel Peralta worked the ninth for his third save.
The victory ensured the Rays (82-64) of their fourth consecutive winning season. Only the Yankees (19), Red Sox (14), and Phillies (9) have a longer current streak.
Matt Wieters homered for the Orioles, who have dropped three straight.
Rookie Zach Britton (9-10) gave up five runs, five hits, and four walks in five innings. He was 3-0 in his last four starts.
The Rays went up, 3-0, in the third. Brandon Guyer doubled and Upton walked before Zobrist hit a two-run double and scored on a two-out single by Sean Rodriguez.
Upton ledoff with a double in the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Johnny Damon for a 4-0 lead.
Robert Andino doubled in a run for Baltimore in the bottom half, and Wieters hit his 18th homer in the sixth.
Yankees 9, Mariners 3 - Robinson Cano hit a three-run double, Mark Teixeira and Chris Dickerson homered and New York rolled past Felix Hernandez (14-12) and host Seattle.
Phil Hughes pitched six strong innings to help New York increase its AL East lead to a season-high four games over the Red Sox.
Athletics 6, Angels 3 - Josh Willingham hit his 25th home run, a three-run shot in the first inning, and drove in four runs to help Oakland push visiting Los Angeles three games behind first-place Texas in the AL West.
Gio Gonzalez (13-12) struck out six and gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Astros 5, Phillies 1 - Carlos Lee hit a two-run homer off former teammate Roy Oswalt to lift Houston past visiting Philadelphia. Despite the loss, Philadelphia’s magic number for gaining at least a wild-card playoff spot dropped to one with St. Louis’s loss to Pittsburgh.
Brett Myers (5-13) allowed six hits in eight innings, striking out four and walking one.
Pirates 6, Cardinals 5 - Pedro Ciriaco hit a tiebreaking double to cap a three-run rally in the eighth inning to power host Pittsburgh.
Albert Pujols hit his NL-leading 35th homer and drove in three runs for St. Louis, which had won five in a row to climb within 4 1/2 games of Atlanta for the wild card.
Tigers 14, White Sox 4 - Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn had back-to-back homers in the second inning as Detroit routed host Chicago for its 10th straight.
Raburn finished with four hits and three RBIs and Peralta added two hits and three RBIs for the Tigers, who reduced their magic number to six in the AL Central.
Diamondbacks 7, Dodgers 2 - Gerardo Parra tied a career high with four RBIs to back seven strong innings by Joe Saunders (11-12) and visiting Arizona rode a five-run sixth inning to beat Los Angeles and reduced its magic number to seven for clinching the NL West title.
Marlins 5, Braves 4 - Mike Stanton’s pinch single in the 12th inning drove in the go-ahead run as Florida extended host Atlanta’s slump.
Cubs 12, Reds 8 - Starlin Castro homered, scored four runs, and drove in three while extending his career-high hitting streak to 13 games and leading Chicago past host Cincinnati.
Nationals 3, Mets 2 - Steve Lombardozzi made his first major league hit and RBI count, driving in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning for visiting Washington.
Giants 8, Padres 3 - Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, and Pablo Sandoval homered in a rare show of power for host San Francisco.