Baltimore and the Yankees enter play Sunday tied for the American League East lead at 91-67, and the O's, who have been chasing a Wild Card spot, now can set their sights even higher: on a division title.
While the O's and Red Sox head into the third game of their series, which Baltimore can sweep, the Yanks are wrapping a four-game series in Toronto. New York has dropped two of three to the Blue Jays. The Orioles' magic number to clinch a postseason berth is two.
Not that the O's were too preoccupied with scoreboard watching to begin with. At least one TV had the Blue Jays-Yanks game on in the O's clubhouse on Saturday, but not too many heads were turned to it.
"I don't think somebody's got a transmitter under the blanket in there, like we used to," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But they're aware. But regardless of what happens in Toronto ... it doesn't matter if we don't hold serve."
Boston's starting pitcher for Sunday should present a decent opportunity for the O's. Righty Zach Stewart (1-3, 7.91 ERA) was lit up in his only appearance with the Red Sox, after coming over from the White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis deal. He allowed nine runs on 10 hits in three innings to the Angels on Aug. 29, a 10-3 Boston loss.
"He hasn't pitched in a game [at any level] since Sept. 5," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said of Stewart. "He's been throwing bullpens ... looked really good."
Baltimore has a veteran on the mound in left-hander Joe Saunders (8-13, 4.09), and Saunders hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a September start. He has two losses in his last three outings, but they were all quality starts. Saunders allowed three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, a 4-0 Toronto win.
For the Red Sox, there's still a chance to make a dent in the AL playoff picture, despite losing the first two games of this series. They wrap their season with three games against the Yankees in New York starting on Monday.
"They just keep doing what they have to do," Valentine said of the O's after Saturday night's 4-3 loss. "Buck knows what he's doing."
Red Sox: Ellsbury back in the lineup
Jacoby Ellsbury went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts Saturday night as the leadoff man and center fielder. He was held out for more than a week because of an undisclosed injury.
Ellsbury is expected to play in the final four games, if there are no recurrences.
"Hopefully ... he will play the next few days and go home on a good note," Valentine said.
Orioles: Pearce added for final stretch
The Orioles claimed right-handed hitter Steve Pearce off waivers from the Yankees on Saturday, bringing him back to the team for a second time this season. He won't be eligible for postseason play if the Orioles make it in, but Pearce adds depth for the final series against the Rays.
Pearce, a Florida native, is set to meet up with the team on Monday in Tampa.
"We have knowledge of him and we like him," Showalter said of Pearce, who hit three homers and had 14 RBIs in 28 games for the Orioles. "We would have liked to have kept him at the time, but we had some other needs that were more pressing. We have interest in having Steve with the organization in the offseason."
Baltimore leads the season series with the Red Sox, 12-5. Baltimore had not won a season series against Boston since 2004.