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Orioles-Rays Preview

AP - Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have done just about all they can to stay in contention for the AL East title.

Their efforts still may not be enough, but being home for the wild-card game isn't the worst consolation.

With a division title still a possibility, the Orioles hope to win their regular-season finale Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays and at least secure home-field advantage for the wild-card game.

Baltimore continued its improbable season Tuesday with a 1-0 victory over the Rays to remain one game behind the East-leading Yankees. Although they managed only two hits and struck out 15 times against James Shields, the Orioles (93-68) got another homer from Chris Davis to win for the 12th time in 16 games.

A one-game tiebreaker for the division title Thursday at Camden Yards would be the result if the Orioles win and the Yankees lose to Boston. Wins by both New York and Baltimore would send the Orioles home for the wild-card playoff Friday against the loser of Wednesday's Texas-Oakland matchup.

"We're not supposed to be here. So just go out and have fun and see what happens," closer Jim Johnson said after recording his major league-best 51st save.

Davis joined Reggie Jackson (1976) as the only players in team history to homer in six straight games. He has seven home runs and 13 RBIs during that span.

"It kind of blows my mind to even be mentioned in the same breath as Reggie, but it's more about the win than anything else," Davis said. "I'm kind of glad to be the guy that's coming through in this situation, but as long as we get the win I don't care."

Baltimore hasn't done much offensively in this series, totaling four runs and eight hits while striking out 25 times. But it has hit three home runs, increasing its total to 17 in the last six games.

As part of the Orioles' unheralded rotation, Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.78 ERA) has played the role of ace over the past three months.

One of many reasons for the team's stunning turnaround from 93 losses in 2011, Tillman has already exceeded the seven games he won in 36 starts over his previous three major league seasons.

He was outstanding again Friday in a 9-1 win over Boston, yielding one hit - a bunt single to the game's first batter - and one unearned run over eight innings. The right-hander walked two, struck out four and retired the final 14 batters he faced.

"I feel like I'm confident in my delivery, and when you have confidence in that, things will play out well for you," Tillman said. "I just got to take it pitch-by-pitch and not get too worried about the next inning or the next game."

Tillman pitched six strong innings in a 6-2 win over the Rays (89-72) on July 26 after going 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his first five starts against them.

Tuesday's loss was only the Rays' second in 13 games overall but their sixth in the last seven meetings with the Orioles. Tampa Bay has scored 11 runs and batted .185 in those seven contests.

Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 3.20) will try to help the Rays reach 90 wins for the third consecutive season when he faces Baltimore for the sixth time this year.

The right-hander is 1-2 in those matchups despite posting a 2.83 ERA. He tossed five scoreless innings at Camden Yards on Sept. 13 before Tampa Bay lost in 14 innings.

Hellickson has been unable to pitch deep into games lately, going four straight starts without completing six innings. He gave up three runs and a season high-tying nine hits over 5 2-3 frames during a 3-1 loss to the White Sox on Friday.

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