BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 6-3 Sunday, then took scoreboard watching to a new level by staying on the field and rooting for the Texas Rangers to beat the Los Angeles Angels.
If the Angels had lost, Baltimore would have clinched its first playoff berth since 1997. After celebrating their fourth straight win, the nearly two dozen Orioles gathered around the first-base line to watch the ninth inning, which began with Texas winning 4-3.
Many in the crowd of 41,257 stood and watched, too.
But a two-run double by Torii Hunter put the Angels in front and ruined the party. As the players and coaches walked off the field, manager Buck Showalter waved to the crowd and offered a fist-pump of encouragement.
The Angels’ 5-4 win kept the Orioles’ magic number to clinch a wild-card berth at one.
Baltimore, however, is looking to go into the postseason as AL East champions. The Orioles started the day tied atop the division standings with the New York Yankees, whose game against Toronto was in progress when this one concluded.
Both contenders have three games left. New York begins a season-ending series against visiting Boston on Monday night, and the Orioles travel to Tampa Bay.
It’s all rather startling, considering that Baltimore is coming off 14 successive losing seasons and four straight last-place finishes. The Orioles (92-67) already have 23 more wins than a year ago.
Nate McLouth, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis hit solo homers, and Jim Thome drove in two runs for Baltimore. The Orioles completed a sweep and went 13-5 against Boston, their most wins in a single season versus the Red Sox since 1970 (13-5).
Joe Saunders (3-3) allowed three runs, eight hits and no walks in 7 1-3 innings for Baltimore. Obtained in a late-August trade with Arizona, Saunders has yielded a total of 12 earned runs in his last six starts.
Jim Johnson worked the ninth for his 50th save.
Cody Ross and Daniel Nava homered for the last-place Red Sox, who have dropped five straight and 16 of 22. Boston (69-90) last lost 90 games in 1966.
Zach Stewart (0-2) gave up five runs and seven hits, including two homers, in 2 2-3 innings. In three starts this season he’s surrendered eight home runs.
A sunny, breezy fall afternoon couldn’t have started much better for the Orioles. After the video board showed the Yankees and Angels losing early, McClouth hit the fourth pitch from Stewart over the left-field wall.
Hardy and Davis followed with singles before Stewart hit Jones with a pitch to load the bases. After Matt Wieters bounced into a run-scoring 4-6-3 double play, Thome followed with grounder up the middle that beat the shift and rolled into the outfield, scoring Davis for a 3-0 lead.
Boston wasted doubles in the second and third innings before Hardy led off the bottom of the third with his 22nd home run. Jones singled with one out, and Thome chased Stewart with an RBI single.
Ross homered in the fourth to get the Red Sox to 5-1. Davis connected off Clayton Mortensen in the fifth, his 31st homer of the season and fourth in four games.
Nava homered in the seventh with a man on.
NOTES: Jones was chosen Orioles MVP in a vote among media covering the team, the second straight year he’s won the award. “It is given to me, but I think the whole team deserves it,” he said. … Boston hit three doubles and now has a major-league leading 214 for the season. … Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz, who’s 2-4 with a 5.84 ERA lifetime against the Yankees, starts Monday night against CC Sabathia. Rookie Wei-Yin Chen (12-10) starts for Baltimore in Tampa Bay against Alex Cobb (10-9). … The top three players in the Baltimore lineup – McLouth, Hardy and Davis – combined to go 6 for 10 with three HRs and five runs.