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Must C Crushed: Davis' 41st homer puts O's ahead

SAN DIEGO -- As the season winds down and playoff races heat up, the third-place Orioles have made it no secret that every game from here on out is big. And like so many of their victories in 2013, Wednesday's was highlighted by a larger-than-life homer from Chris Davis.

Davis, an American League Most Valuable Player candidate, hit a towering 453-foot tiebreaking blast off San Diego reliever Colt Hynes as part of a four-run eighth inning that sealed Baltimore's 10-3 win and a sweep of their brief two-game set at Petco Park.

"It was loud, but he's not picking on anybody," manager Buck Showalter said of Davis, who was 0-for-3 prior to the three-run homer. "The thing about Chris is he's so lethal -- he may have some bad at-bats, but you never think he's not a swing away from really doing something good for you."

The Orioles' first baseman -- who has already eclipsed his career highs in home runs and RBIs -- has hit 41 homers and driven in 106 runs this season. His assault on Hynes' first pitch of the afternoon, a 79-mph slider, tied him for the second-longest home run hit in Petco's 10-year history.

"That's a bomb," center fielder Adam Jones, who finished with seven hits in the series, said of Davis' blast, which he cheekily reminded reporters isn't the team's longest homer. "I still got one further than him this year, though. That still didn't get me."

More importantly, of course, was that Davis' long ball, which landed in the right-field seats, ensured the Orioles kept pace in the AL playoff race and improved Baltimore (63-51) to 2-0 on a tough three-city road trip. The O's, who got a quality rebound effort from starter Miguel Gonzalez and a three-RBI afternoon from shortstop J.J. Hardy, end their season set against San Diego at 2-2.

"Any time you've got to fly across the country and play two right off the bat, it's going to be an obstacle," said Davis, who leads the Majors with 72 extra-base hits, "but we did well earlier in the year handling the West Coast trip. And we've started out here on the right foot."

Davis' blast helped make sure of that, as Padres manager Bud Black summoned Hynes to replace reliever Luke Gregerson after Manny Machado and Jones opened the eighth with a pair of singles.

"I felt good the last couple of games. I felt comfortable in the box. I just haven't had much to show for it," Davis said. "In the last at-bat last night against Gregerson, I was kind of turning the corner. To go out there today and just have two awful at-bats and leave guys on in the third at-bat, especially in a tight game, to get the homer, it was huge -- not just for me, but for the whole team."

""It was a typical left-on-left matchup where you're trying to throw your best pitch in that situation," Padres catcher Rene Rivera said of the decision to throw Davis an offspeed pitch. "[Hynes] left it out over the plate. And [Davis is] a big, strong man."

Hynes exited after Matt Wieters followed Davis' heroics with a double and Brian Roberts drove in the team's seventh run with a sacrifice fly off Dale Thayer, pushing the lead to four. Hardy, who got things with a second-inning solo homer off starter Eric Stults, drove in another pair of runs with a two-out single off reliever Sean O'Sullivan, in the ninth.

"Doesn't matter how we get them, we just want wins any way we can get them," Jones said. "Because the teams ahead of us right now in our division and the Wild Card are playing good baseball. We want wins. How we get them doesn't matter, who does the job, as long as we get the job done."

Gonzalez, coming off a rough two-start stretch in which he allowed 15 runs (10 earned) over 8 1/3 innings, got back to his old self in turning in a solid six-inning outing in his first career game against a National League team.

"Not trying to do too much," Gonzalez said of the difference in Wednesday's start versus the previous two. "I think working in between starts. My split finger was there, throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys. You saw what happened in the sixth inning when I started getting behind guys. ... It's tough no matter where you go and what team you're playing against. You fall behind and you're going to be in trouble."

Gonzalez pitched around a leadoff single and two-out walk in the first and settled in nicely after that, retiring 12 of 13 at one point. His only blemish on the afternoon came in his final frame. He issued a leadoff walk to Chris Denorfia and, after striking out Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso's broken-bat single brought Jedd Gyorko to the plate. San Diego's second baseman tied it up with a three-run homer, sending Gonzalez's 2-0 offering over the center-field fence.

"I thought Miggy was as good as anything that happened in the game," Showalter said. "He gives up a 3-2 walk and a broken-bat single to left and then he made one of the few mistakes he made. The game's not always fair. He was really good today. You could tell early on he was carrying good stuff."

Alexi Amarista followed with a single, which Wieters erased by throwing him out trying to steal second, and Gonzalez struck out Ronny Cedeno to end the inning. Orioles reliever Francisco Rodriguez followed Gonzalez with a 1-2-3 seventh inning, which started with a nice catch from left fielder Nate McLouth, while lefty Troy Patton got the first two outs of the eighth. Right-hander Darren O'Day -- who struck out in his first career Major League at-bat -- recorded the game's final four outs.

"What do we have 48, 47 games [left] something like that?" said Showalter, who will visit Alcatraz on Thursday. "You know any time you come out to the West Coast against a club there's a lot of unknown about. The guys feel good about themselves for an off-day tomorrow. We'll see what San Francisco has in store for us. I know what it has in store for me tomorrow."

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