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BAL@BOS: Andino's bases-clearing double puts O's up

BOSTON -- Competitive integrity. It's a phrase manager Buck Showalter has used countless times over the last few weeks as the Orioles' season has become intertwined with the American League playoff picture, and his last-place club -- fresh off series wins against Tampa Bay and Anaheim -- is not content to simply roll over and play out the year.

Those competitive juices were on full display in Tuesday's 7-5 come-from-behind win against the Red Sox, as Robert Andino's two-out bases-clearing double in the eighth inning thwarted Boston's hopes of extending its slim margin in the AL Wild Card race.

"I don't know if it's about trying to beat the Red Sox or Tampa. It's about what we've been trying to do all year," shortstop J.J. Hardy said of the Orioles' 6-3 record in a closing stretch of 17 games against teams looking to reach the postseason.

"It's nice to do it, because that's what we feel like we are capable of. When we do play good, I hope teams understand and notice, and next year hopefully we can do it more consistently."

Baltimore certainly has Boston's attention, handing the Sox their 15th loss in 20 games with Tuesday's win, and making sure Showalter, who was ejected in the top of the fifth inning, had something to smile about despite his early exit.

"I think the energy, the emotion of the [meaningful September] games play well for us, because we have kind of identified our lot for the season," Showalter said. "So you get into this [competitive] situation, more than anything there is envy and we want to be in their position."

Tuesday's win improved the Orioles to 64-90 and was just their second victory in eight games at Fenway Park this season. Down a run, Mark Reynolds' one-out single put runners on first and second, prompting Red Sox manager Terry Francona to call on closer Jonathan Papelbon for a five-out save. But after Papelbon sent Chris Davis down looking at a called third strike, Nolan Reimold punched an 0-2 pitch into left field to load the bases and turn the lineup over to Andino. Baltimore's leadoff man, who has stepped in admirably due to the absence of second baseman Brian Roberts for most of the season, worked the count full before lining a pitch down the right-field line to give the O's a two-run lead.

"He had great at-bats all night," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia raved of Andino, who went 3-for-5 and saw a team-high 30 pitches. "He's a good player. He's been playing great defense, too. He's doing a great job for them."

Andino said he was simply trying to put the ball in play, trying to force something to happen with two outs. His teammates and manager -- who have raved all season about the 26-year-old's maturity and coming into his own -- saw the pivotal at-bat a little differently.

"You can just tell the confidence he is playing with on both sides of the ball," said Showalter, who watched Andino's at-bat on the visiting clubhouse's television. "Sitting back here, I couldn't imagine many guys I'd rather have in that situation."

"I don't think any pitcher enjoys throwing to him," Hardy added of Andino, who collected three hits for the fifth time this season. "He's up there grinding, he doesn't give at-bats away and I like our chances when he's up there."

The piece of clutch hitting erased a frustrating fifth inning, in which the Orioles watched a key chance to rally fall apart when catcher Matt Wieters was called for a checked-swing third strike, leading to Vladimir Guerrero's subsequent caught stealing at second base. An irate Showalter was ejected for arguing the call on Wieters, and the bizarre double play cleared the bases instead of a potential first-and-second with no outs situation.

Andino's double also erased another abbreviated outing from the Orioles' starting rotation, with righty Rick VandenHurk struggling from the onset and allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits over three-plus innings. VandenHurk allowed the first three batters he faced in the fourth to reach base before exiting in favor of Jo-Jo Reyes, who kept the game close with three-plus scoreless innings of relief.

"It all starts with fastball command, and to be able to throw that in and out," said VandenHurk, who has been trying to iron out mechanical problems in his delivery. "I got my angle back, which is great. I got all my offspeed stuff, which is a lot better, but I still have to work on my direction a little bit. And I think that's where my inconsistency comes from."

Despite VandenHurk's short start, he actually outlasted Red Sox pitcher Erik Bedard, who took the mound for the third inning with a shutout and never finished the frame. Making his first start in 17 days, the left-hander watched a key error from right fielder Josh Reddick snowball into a four-run frame. After Nick Markakis doubled in the Orioles' first score, Reddick misplayed Guerrero's ball to allow Markakis safe passage, and Bedard issued a pair of walks to Wieters and Adam Jones. Reynolds worked his way back from an 0-2 count to lace a ball into left field for a two-run single that ended Bedard's evening to a scattering of boos from the home crowd.

"Just the situation they are in and our situation, it's a little added bonus," Reynolds said of Tuesday's win. "There's no extra incentive to go out there and try to spoil their season. We're just trying to play good baseball and win games." Comments