BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox are running away with the American League East.
After coming away empty-handed in two earlier bases-loaded opportunities, the Sox made the third time the charm on Wednesday night, as they scored five unearned runs during the sixth inning and posted a 5-1 win over the Orioles.
Boston's seventh straight victory puts the Sox a season-high 24 games over .500 and increases their AL East lead to a season-high five games over Toronto while reducing their magic number for clinching the division to six with 10 games to go. Baltimore, meanwhile, holds a one-game lead over Detroit for the second AL Wild Card.
The Red Sox have played their best baseball of the season at the most important time, winning 10 out of their last 13 -- all against division opponents.
"Similar to other challenges that have been thrown our way, whether it's injuries to certain individuals, schedules, division, where we are in the standings -- we're seeing some things come together in a good time of the year," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
After chasing Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez with one out in the sixth, Boston took its first lead on Chris Davis' errant throw to reliever Brad Brach on a two-out ground ball that should've ended the inning. Instead, the ball sailed past Brach and bounced off the netting in front of the camera well along the first-base line, scoring two, and Andrew Benintendi launched Brach's next pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.
"I was trying to get something early in the count, because I feel like this entire series, it feels like I've had two strikes on me every time," said Benintendi, who is ranked the No. 2 prospect in Boston's farm system. "Just looking for something out over the plate and put a good swing on it."
That was plenty for Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who went seven innings and held the Orioles to one run on three hits.
Baltimore, losers in five of its last seven, has been held to two or fewer runs in five consecutive games. The Orioles' lone run came on Adam Jones' sacrifice fly after loading the bases in the third inning.
"We talk about it every day. When there's more season left you know someone's going to pay down the line. We've seen that. But when you're in a situation like this, no one feels sorry for you," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his club's recent struggles. "They want to step on your neck while you're down. We did it to them. Now they're trying to do it to us. It doesn't get any easier. They got two or three guys who have over 200 innings pitched. That's why they are competing like they have. There's no sympathy and our guys aren't looking for it. They'll figure it out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Benintendi's blast: After Davis created an opening for the Red Sox with a two-run error on what would have been the final out of the sixth inning for the Orioles, Benintendi unloaded for his second Major League homer, a three-run shot to right. It was the continuation of a solid initiation to the big leagues for Benintendi, who is hitting .317 and has shown no ill effects from the left knee injury that sidelined him from Aug. 25-Sept. 13.
"There's a lot to like," said Farrell. "He's a good-looking young player. You watch him in the batter's box, as we've said, no panic in his swing, very calm, very smooth in all his actions, and for a young kid who steps into this pennant race, he's responded very well." More >
Davis' costly error: The Orioles' first baseman, who fielded Sandy Leon's ball, watched his throw sail away from a hustling Brach to extend the inning and score a pair of two-out runs. That miscue proved even bigger when No. 9 batter Benintendi went deep, resulting in five unearned runs.
"Yeah, it's frustrating. It's frustrating when they don't get a ball past the first-base [bag], 90 feet away, two runs score," Brach said. "And then, obviously, I need to make a better pitch on the next batter. But, I mean, you've got to win those games, especially keep the lead there, when you make good pitches like that." More >
Buchholz stays hot: Buchholz continues to be one of the in-season comeback stories of the season for the Red Sox. In his last six starts, Buchholz is 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA. The right-hander looks nothing like the pitcher who had a 6.35 ERA when he was initially taken out of the rotation on May 26.
"I've been here before," said Buchholz. "I knew I wasn't going to be bad all year. It was a stretch that I didn't really know what was going on. I didn't know how to fix it. I was trying too hard and over-doing a lot of things, over-analyzing. Yeah, it takes a couple of games to get some confidence going in the right direction. It's fun pitching when everything is going good, especially when you're winning."
A little help please: For a team that leads the Majors with 238 home runs, the Orioles have been held to just nine runs in five games. The club's last inning of more than two runs came nearly a week ago, as it has gone 60 innings without scoring more than twice in a frame. While Showalter has done his best to tinker with the lineup, there's been no real spark for Baltimore's offense.
"It's definitely not the position we want to be in," Davis said. "Felt like we were playing some good baseball coming off the road trip. Went to three tough places and won each series. That's what you want coming down the stretch, and [we] just haven't been able to get the runs when we need them and kind of putting ourselves behind the eight-ball right now. We've still got a shot at this thing. It's by no means over." More >
"I'm very proud of these guys. I've got a long memory. They'll get it going here. If we can get in, I feel real good about this group. That's what we're trying to do." -- Showalter, on his club's postseason chances
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Jimenez, who was reinserted into the rotation after Chris Tillman's injury, has a 3.17 ERA since the All-Star break and exited to a standing ovation Wednesday. More >
David Ortiz isn't wearing down in the final stages of his final season -- not even a little bit. In his last 11 games, the slugger is slashing .342 with two doubles, five homers, nine runs scored and 14 RBIs.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Lefty David Price gets the ball for Boston in the finale of this four-game showdown against the Orioles. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Price is 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA in four starts against Baltimore this season.
Orioles: The Orioles will send Chris Tillman to the mound hoping to avoid the series sweep. After landing on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis in late August, the righty hasn't shown any signs of the injury during his return. In two starts back, Baltimore's Opening Day starter is 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA.