Davis unlikely hero in O's marathon victory

Both DHs pitch; O's down Red Sox in 17 frames

Davis unlikely hero in O's marathon victory
BOSTON -- You had to see it to believe it.

In a marathon six-hour, 17-inning game on Sunday that featured both teams sending its designated hitter to pitch, it was the Orioles -- behind the stealth throwing of infielder Chris Davis -- who persevered for a 9-6 win and series sweep of the Red Sox in front of a sellout crowd at Fenway Park.

With the win, the Orioles swept the Red Sox in Boston for the first time since June 10-12, 1994.

The win also puts the red-hot O's in first place in the American League East with a Major League-best 19-9 record and was so bizarre that manager Buck Showalter -- who recorded his 1,000th career win on Tuesday night -- quipped: "Just when you think you've seen it all ... Like Billy [Martin] said a long time ago, 'See what the game has in store for you.'"

It was Davis' position change that helped pave the way, as the 26-year-old right-hander -- who last pitched for Navarro (Texas) Junior College in 2006 -- threw two scoreless innings to go, literally, from zero to hero. According to Elias, he is the first player to go 0-for-8 at the plate and wind up as the winning pitcher since Rube Waddell on July 4, 1905.

Asked his reaction when Showalter told him to go out to the bullpen and start getting loose, Davis -- who was still wearing a hint of shaving cream after getting a pie in the face and a beer shower -- grinned and said, "I'm like, 'Sweet, I get to try something different today, because hitting ain't working.'"

Pitching sure did. Davis, who struck out five times in his eight hitless at-bats, took the mound in the bottom of the 16th as a last resort for Baltimore, which had used every reliever in its standout bullpen and held Boston to one run over the previous 10 2/3 innings.

Using a fastball that topped out at 91 mph, Davis recorded a strikeout and flyout before Marlon Byrd reached on an error by Wilson Betemit. The game looked to be over when Mike Aviles sent a ball into the gap, but Adam Jones -- who delivered the winning hit, a three-run homer off Boston's DH/emergency pitcher Darnell McDonald -- made a good relay throw to shortstop J.J. Hardy. Hardy, who homered twice en route to collecting a career-high five hits, turned and fired home to catcher Matt Wieters, who did an excellent job blocking the plate and putting the tag on Byrd in an unbelievable sequence.

"He was throwing about 89, sinking it," Byrd said of Davis, who signed a letter of intent to pitch and play first base at Arizona before deciding to go pro. "I think he threw a changeup. He threw one breaking ball."

Actually, it was a split-finger, a correction Davis -- who wore an ear-to-ear grin during the entire postgame interview -- made half in jest. Though he had a hard time keeping a straight face, Davis was modest about his efforts in the Orioles' fifth straight win in Boston.

"It was just a huge team effort," Davis said of a game that featured a combined 18 pitchers, the most in a single game at Fenway Park. "You can't say enough about our pitching staff. They've kept us in games, some of them we had no business being in. The way they pitched, myself not included, they've been picking us up all year."

Closer Jim Johnson, and relievers Matt Lindstrom, Kevin Gregg and Pedro Strop each went two scoreless innings, with Lindstrom (13 innings) and Johnson (12 2/3 innings) both extending their scoreless streaks in the process. Their efforts, along with Davis' heroics, paved the way for Jones' 17th-inning homer, which came with one out after Hardy doubled and Nick Markakis -- the Orioles' other option to pitch behind Davis -- drew a walk.

"It was bizarre, it was fun, it was awesome," Jones, who homered for the second consecutive game, said. "It was exhausting. It was exhilarating."

"You talk about team wins, I'd like to see somebody top that one, team-wise," Showalter added. "Everybody made a contribution. If there's such a thing as having as rough a day as you can have, for Chris to end up being maybe the star of the game, so to speak, that's hard to believe."

And what of these Orioles, who have given fans reason for hope in the season's first months? Will the rest of baseball start to pay closer attention to Baltimore, winner of five straight and 11 of 13, including series wins in Boston and New York?

"Hopefully not," Hardy said. "Hopefully, if people are underestimating us, that's [what we have] going for us. I don't know."

The Orioles are off to their best start in seven seasons and have won four consecutive extra-inning games on the road. In a tough 15-game stretch against the AL East and an upcoming series against the two-time AL champion Rangers, Showalter has been hesitant to get overly excited and publicly deem any win as greater than another. Sunday was no exception.

"I think the thing our guys will do very quickly is realize we're getting ready to play the best team in the American League the last two years and probably playing as good as anybody in baseball," he said. "Pitching once again will be a premium if we're going to compete with them, but I'm real proud of them [today]. That was a great intensity game for us."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.