BOSTON -- Spoilers. The term -- an oft-used phrase to describe a team out of the postseason race making an impact on its opponents' October chances -- has been floated around the Orioles for weeks as the season winds down and each game becomes paramount in assessing baseball's playoff picture.
And while the Orioles attest there's no added incentive, no vindication in mucking up an American League Wild Card race that gets more interesting by the day, they are certainly playing like a team with a little extra motivation. Fresh off series wins over the Rays and Angels -- who are both vying for postseason spots -- Baltimore continued to prove to be a pesky mid-September opponent, beating Boston, 6-5, Monday afternoon to pick up its first win at Fenway Park this season.
The victory in the first game of a day-night doubleheader handed an already-reeling Red Sox club its 12th loss in 15 games, reducing its lead in the AL Wild Card race to 1 1/2 games with Tampa Bay idle on Monday. The Orioles have now won five of their last seven games against teams contending for a playoff spot.
"It's really nice, probably one of my favorite days as a baseball player," said Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, who picked up his first career win in nine games (eight starts) at Fenway Park.
"It's an interesting stretch that we've had. ... We are playing teams that are trying to win and giving us everything they have, and to be able to compete against them and play well is a compliment to our team and the guys here and the staff. So hopefully we can keep doing that and finish strong."
Monday afternoon's win -- powered by a trio of early homers off Red Sox rookie Kyle Weiland -- also guaranteed the Orioles will avoid reaching 100 losses, a dubious distinction that both the players and manager Buck Showalter said was never on their mind.
"I don't even know the math or whatever, but there is only one place to be, and the rest of it doesn't play in my mind," Showalter said.
"We'd like to have these games mean even more in September of next year."
For now, the Orioles will have to settle with moral victories like Monday's, which started after Matt Angle's RBI double to left-center scored a pair of third-inning runs. Angle -- who notched the first multi-RBI game of his career -- put Baltimore on the board, and the offense continued to pile on Weiland with a two-run homer from Robert Andino followed by Nolan Reimold's solo shot in a three-run fourth inning. Shortstop J.J. Hardy extended his career high in homers, hitting No. 28 to start the fifth and give the Orioles their sixth run of the afternoon.
"It's almost like I start to see the same guys again and I get less aggressive with my fastball," said Weiland, who was charged with six runs -- five earned -- over 4 2/3 innings. "And when you fall behind at this level, most of the time you're going to get hurt."
Added Angle: "I think some guys took some advantage of some pitches and we're able to take advantage of the [Green Monster]. [Weiland] did a good job first time through the lineup, and we just happened to swing it the second time through the lineup."
Guthrie was the beneficiary of all that offense, exiting after Darnell McDonald's leadoff single in the seventh and allowing four runs on 10 hits and a walk. After Troy Patton allowed a run in the seventh, Willie Eyre, Clay Rapada and Pedro Strop combined to bridge the game to Jim Johnson, who picked up his third save in a week.
"Early in the year, I was definitely a culprit. There were a couple games where I kind of cost him a win," Johnson said of Guthrie (9-17), who has won three consecutive starts. "[Those are] games he should have won, so I feel like I kind of owe him some."
Johnson improved to 7-for-12 in save opportunities this season as he continues to get an extended look in the ninth inning over closer Kevin Gregg.
"I want to expose people to as many possible situations that will help us make better decisions as we go forward," Showalter said of using Johnson in pressurized ninth-inning spots. "Because they are not going to be here in about 10 games."
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.