BALTIMORE (AP) — In his final start of the 2012 season, Felix Doubront left a lasting impression on Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
Doubront struck out 10 and allowed only three earned runs in seven innings against the Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, the left-hander also gave up two homers in a 4-3 loss Saturday night.
Doubront (11-10) finished with 167 strikeouts over 161 innings. Not since Babe Ruth fanned 170 in 1916 has a Red Sox lefty 24 or younger recorded as many strikeouts in a season.
‘‘I'm just preparing myself for next year,’’ Doubront said. ‘‘It’s been a challenge. I learned how to pitch. It was a pretty good season for me — the first full year. I learned a lot of things about the game, about pitching.’’
Doubront faced the Orioles in his previous start, too, striking out 11 in seven innings last Sunday. He got a no-decision in Boston’s win.
‘‘I think he showed people he’s a good pitcher,’’ Valentine said. ‘‘We knew it already. I think he made one bad pitch tonight to (Chris) Davis. I'm proud of the way he pitched all season.’’
Davis hit his 30th home run, and rookie Manny Machado led off the seventh with the tiebreaking shot to help propel the Orioles into a first-place tie with the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Boston, on the other hand, fell into the division cellar with its 15th loss in 21 games. The Red Sox have not finished in last place since 1992.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his 25th home run of the season for Boston.
Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury went 1 for 4 after being sidelined since Sept. 20 with an unspecified injury. Ellsbury has only four homers and 26 RBIs after finishing second in AL MVP voting last season.
‘‘I didn’t see him play that way this year,’’ Valentine said before the game. ‘‘He did not quite hit his stride this year.’’
After finishing in the division cellar in each of the previous four seasons, Baltimore (91-67) is now in first place with the New York Yankees. Both teams have four games left.
Tommy Hunter (7-8) pitched two innings, Brian Matusz and Darren O'Day shared the eighth and Jim Johnson got three outs for his 49th save.
A sellout crowd of 46,311, a majority of them clad in Oriole orange, brought Camden Yards back to a time when the home team was a force in the AL East and the ballpark was packed on a nightly basis.
The fans got to cheer a Baltimore great before the first pitch, too. A statue of Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson was unveiled during a ceremony in the flag court beyond the center-field wall.
The Orioles’ goal is to capture the division, but if they win two more games they are assured of their first trip to the playoffs since 1997 — their last winning season before this year. Manager Buck Showalter’s team now is 41-27 in the division and New York is 37-31, so if Baltimore wins one more game, it will have home-field advantage if there’s a playoff to decide the AL East title.
In addition to hitting two homers and limiting Boston to five hits, Baltimore also played well defensively. Machado, the third baseman, ranged far to his right in the fourth inning to start a double play, and first baseman Mark Reynolds tumbled over the tarp roll and got wedged behind it after catching a foul pop. Endy Chavez, who entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth, made a sparking catch of a sinking liner to right field.
‘‘They just keeping doing what they have to do,’’ Valentine said of the Orioles. ‘‘Buck knows what he’s doing. He puts in a defensive replacement and he makes a diving catch. They've done a great job with that young third baseman. He beat us tonight. He played excellent defense all year.’’
Orioles rookie Steve Johnson took a three-hitter and a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning but was lifted after giving up a single and a walk. Hunter got Dustin Pedroia to hit a force at second, but a run came home when Cody Ross hit a sacrifice fly to right field that Davis dropped after Adam Jones drifted over from center and called for the ball. Hunter avoided further damage by getting Mauro Gomez to bounce into a double play.
Baltimore went up 1-0 in the second inning when Machado singled in a run after Doubront hit Davis with a pitch and Reynolds reached on a slow roller to third.
In the fourth, after Jones reached on a throwing error by shortstop Mike Aviles, Davis drove a 1-0 pitch far over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead.
Saltalamacchia homered in the fifth after Gomez drew a leadoff walk.
NOTES: The Robinson statue stands alongside the team’s five other Hall of Fame members, all of whom were in attendance: Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. ... Joe Saunders will pitch for the Orioles in the series finale Sunday. Zach Stewart will pitch for Boston. ... Baltimore claimed OF Steve Pearce off waivers from the Yankees. He will join the team in Tampa Bay on Monday. ... Boston has lost 17 of 24 to Baltimore since September 2011.