Baltimore's wild-card hopes were reinforced Wednesday. Not only did the Orioles win, they got the kind of pitching performance they're accustomed to from Scott Erickson.
Bouncing back from three subpar outings, Erickson shut down Tampa Bay on five hits to stop a personal two-game losing streak with a 7-0 victory over the expansion Devil Rays.
Eric Davis doubled to extend his club-record hitting streak to 27 games, Mike Bordick had three RBI and Rafael Palmeiro hit his 36th homer to help Erickson (12-9) get his second shutout and AL-leading eighth complete game this season.
"I went through a little slump and hopefully straightened things out," said Erickson, who walked one and struck out five. "It's one game. I can't get too excited about it."
The hitting streak for Davis, who returned to the lineup after taking Tuesday night off, currently is the longest in the majors. Davis went 1-for-4 and is tied with Kansas City's Jose Offerman for the second longest this season behind Anaheim's Garret Anderson's 28.
The victory was the seventh in nine games for Baltimore, which improved baseball's best record since the All-Star break to 24-7. The surge has moved the Orioles back into wild-card contention with Boston and Anaheim.
"We've got two teams ahead of us, so every game is critical," Baltimore manager Ray Miller said.
ampa Bay, which has scored six runs in its last eight games, was shut out a major league-leading 15th time.
"If you live by offense, there are going to be times when good pitching shuts you down," said Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild. "But it shouldn't happen as much as it has."
Erickson gave up a first-inning single to Quinton McCracken and didn't allow another hit until Fred McGriff led off the bottom of the seventh with a single.
Miguel Cairo, Kevin Stocker and Randy Winn also singled off Erickson, who was 0-2 and gave up 19 runs and 24 hits in 12 innings over his three previous starts.
"When he's on, he's probably as good as any pitcher in this league," Rothschild said. "Good pitchers, you get to them early. I didn't think he was sharp early, but he settled in."
Palmeiro said one of the keys was giving Erickson the lead.
"He's thrown bad the last few times out, but he came out today and pitched the way he normally does," the Orioles first baseman said. "When you have an early lead, your whole game plan changes."
Bordick had a sacrifice fly and two-run double off Wilson Alvarez (5-11), who also gave up Palmeiro's two-run homer which made it 3-0 in the third.
Alvarez, who signed A $35 million, five-year contract as a free agent last winter, lost for the sixth time in seven starts since coming off the disabled list on July 6.
"I feel fine," Alvarez said, shrugging off questions about whether he is still bothered by tendinitis in his left shoulder.
"I can't get guys out. It's been this way the whole year. I don't know what to say ... I'm getting tired of going out there and not doing the job."
Bordick's bases-loaded sacrifice fly gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead in the second and Palmeiro hit his homer after Davis hit a ground-rule double just under the glove of third baseman Bobby Smith with one out in the third.
Bordick, who had one RBI in his previous 21 games, added a two-run double off Alvarez in the sixth. The Orioles scored twice off Dennis Springer in the ninth -- once on a wild pitch, and again on B.J. Surhoff's RBI double.
Erickson, making his AL-leading 27th start, gave up McCracken's single and hit Smith with a pitch in the first, then retired 14 batters in a row.
The Devil Rays stranded McCracken at third base in the first inning and did the same to Stocker, who walked in the sixth and moved up when the next two batters grounded to second and flied to right.
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