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BAL@TB: Davis opens scoring with two-run shot

ST. PETERSBURG -- Just how hot has Chris Davis' bat been?

The Orioles first baseman, responsible for four RBIs in Baltimore's 6-3 win over Tampa Bay, has driven in 11 runs in the first three games of 2013, more than 16 other Major League teams had scored through Thursday afternoon. He's the first player in Major League history, according to Elias Sports Bureau, to drive in three or more runs in each of his team's first three games.

Davis, who joined Frank Robinson on Thursday in becoming the second player since 1920 in organization history to homer in the first three games of the season, has given Baltimore's lineup a significant boost.

But his latest effort cost him two bats and, as manager Buck Showalter quipped, "They broke Wonder Boy the last at-bat, so I don't know how he's going to do from here on out."

Jokes aside, the Orioles, who defied critics all last season en route to a 93-win playoff run, showed they are mighty serious about a follow-up act. The O's -- who lost a little luster with Brian Roberts' ninth-inning hamstring injury -- finally leave Florida with a divisional series "W" and a three-game stretch that featured good starting pitching and a well-balanced offensive attack that was better than anyone could have expected.

"This is a tough place to start a season," said Davis, who went 7-for-11 with six extra-base hits in the series. "Any time you come in here, you know you're going to have to just grind out at-bats. Their pitching staff is one of the best. I think it's something to be proud of, the fact that we scored as many runs in three games as we did and to come out of here with two wins."

Led by Davis' effort, the Orioles scored 20 runs in the series, with catcher Matt Wieters giving the club a rare homer off Rays ace David Price on Tuesday night and J.J. Hardy on Thursday with a two-run shot off reliever Cesar Ramos.

Hardy's eighth-inning blast ensured that right-hander Miguel Gonzalez would pick up the victory after the 28-year-old tossed 6 1/3 innings for a quality start in his season debut. Gonzalez cruised through the early part of the game and did not allow a hit until Evan Longoria's single up the middle to start the bottom of the fifth inning.

But Gonzalez ran into some trouble after that, with Tampa Bay using some well-placed hits to tie the game at 2. One out after Longoria's single, Yunel Escobar reached on an infield hit that deflected off Gonzalez. Afer throwing some warm-up pitches under the watchful eye of the medical staff, the right-hander stayed in the game, surrendering RBI singles to James Loney and Jose Molina to relinquish the lead.

"It skinned me," Gonzalez said of Escobar's ball. "Good thing it didn't hit me straight up, or I probably would have been out of the game."

Gonzalez got No. 9 batter Ryan Roberts to ground into a double play to end the inning and exited after a one-out single in the seventh to an ovation from the small Orioles crowd behind the visiting dugout.

"He's, as he would say, a tough hombre," Showalter said of Gonzalez, who is 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA in three career starts at Tropicana Field. "That's a good outing, that's a good start for him."

Davis got the scoring started, blasting Rays starter Roberto Hernandez's changeup for a two-run shot -- which also scored Adam Jones -- in the second. In the sixth, Davis doubled in Jones and Nick Markakis, who walked, to give the Orioles back the lead for good.

"It's just unbelievable," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Davis' success in the series. "You throw anything up there and he's going to hit it hard somewhere. I've never quite seen him like that."

Added Longoria: "Without Chris Davis, we're at 3-0."

Longoria was in the middle of a Rays rally in the ninth, with a controversial call helping end it.

Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, on for his second inning of work, hit Sean Rodriguez with a pitch and allowed a single to Ben Zobrist to bring on closer Jim Johnson to face Longoria. Longoria blasted the first pitch to the center-field fence, past a leaping duo of Jones and Nate McLouth to drive in a run. But the O's caught a break when Longoria was ruled out for passing Zobrist on the basepaths, a call Maddon argued to no avail.

"That's not something that an umpire just comes up with," crew chief John Hirschbeck said of the call. "That's the kind of thing you either see it or you don't."

"If they hadn't called it, they would have had a heck of an argument, too," Showalter said. "We were all watching it. We saw the same thing the umpire did. I haven't seen the replays or whatever. You're going to get an argument either way. We were fortunate."

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