The vast change in the Baltimore Orioles over the past couple of years can be measured by their success against the Boston Red Sox, even when their American League East rivals send Jon Lester to the mound.
Chris Davis hit his major league-leading 23rd home run, while Nick Markakis had four hits and scored three runs as Baltimore beat Lester and the Red Sox 6-3 on Sunday.
Manny Machado extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games and drove in a run for the Orioles, who took three of four from first-placed Boston to move within 1.5 games of the division lead. Baltimore have won six straight series over the Red Sox, dating back to last year.
Before going 13-5 against Boston last year, the Orioles had not taken a season series from the Red Sox since 2004. The metamorphosis is even more apparent when gauging their performances against Lester.
Prior to September last year, when the Orioles charged into the playoffs for the first time since 1997, Baltimore were 0-14 against the Boston right-hander. They beat him on Sept. 21 and on Sunday they tagged him for five runs in five innings.
“Obviously, we have a different group here,” said Davis, who was none for 14 against Lester, before ripping a 3-1 pitch in the third inning for a two-run homer that put Baltimore up 3-0.
After striking out in the first inning, Davis took action.
“Went in there and looked at some video just to get an idea of what he’d been doing to me in the past,” Davis said. “I know I hadn’t had a lot of success. If you give him both sides of the plate and try to hit all those pitches you make it tough on yourself. I was able to get ahead of him and get a good pitch to drive.”
It was his 100th career homer and seventh in the past 10 games against Boston. Davis also doubled in a run in the fifth against Lester, sending the Orioles on their way to their 14th win in 19 games against the Red Sox, including five of seven this season.
In Anaheim, California, Mariano Rivera struck out Albert Pujols with the bases loaded to end an Angels’ five-run rally in the ninth inning as the New York Yankees ended their five-game losing streak with a wild, 6-5 victory over Los Angeles.
C.C. Sabathia pitched five-hit ball into the ninth, while Travis Hafner hit a three-run homer off Jered Weaver, but the Yankees barely survived when Rivera fanned the Angels’ star slugger. New York’s famed closer gave up three hits and a walk, but still got his 24th save.
In other American League games, Torii Hunter connected for his 300th career home run to lead the Detroit Tigers over the Minnesota Twins, the Kansas City Royals had a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Houston Astros edged the Chicago White Sox 5-4 and the Oakland Athletics thrashed the Seattle Mariners 10-2.
In the National League, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a three-run homer that capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning to help the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in New York.
Matt Garza pitched seven scoreless innings and the Cubs scored twice on a madcap play that featured three bad throws by Mets infielders, giving Chicago a 3-0 lead, but the Mets came back against Carlos Marmol (2-4) in the ninth, starting with Marlon Byrd’s leadoff home run. Nieuwenhuis connected with one out.
The National League Central-leading Cardinals lost a series for the first time since April 26 to April 28, with the Marlins finishing off the series with a 7-2 win in Miami.
Elsewhere, the Atlanta Braves had a 3-0 win over the San Francisco Giants, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3 and the Colorado Rockies had a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
In San Diego, California, Kyle Blanks hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to a break a tie and lift the Padres to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, their season-high sixth straight victory.
In interleague play, Corey Kluber pitched eight shutout innings as the Cleveland Indians spoiled Stephen Strasburg’s return with a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals.