Wieters’ 3 RBIs lift O’s to 4-2 win over Red Sox

Posted Sept. 21, 2012, at 11:01 p.m.

BOSTON — Matt Wieters drove in three runs, Miguel Gonzalez pitched 6 1-3 solid innings and the Baltimore Orioles remained one game behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

The Yankees beat Oakland 2-1 in 10 innings. The Orioles broke a tie with the Athletics for the top wild-card spot. All three teams have 12 games remaining.

Jon Lester (9-13) lost for the first time in his 21 career starts against the Orioles. He had been 14-0, the longest winning streak against the Orioles franchise for a pitcher at the start of his career since at least 1901. It had been the longest current winning streak by an active pitcher against any team. But he’s 0-1 in his last four starts against them, all Orioles victories.

Gonzalez (7-4) allowed two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk as the Orioles improved to 6-1 this season at Fenway Park. They lead the AL with 44 wins on the road.

Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his club-record 46th save, one more than the previous record Randy Myers set in 1997.

The score was tied 2-2 after five innings before the Orioles went ahead with two runs in the sixth.

Adam Jones walked with one out and scored on a double by Wieters. A wild pitch by Lester sent Wieters to third and Mark Reynolds drove him in with a single. Reynolds went 2 for 4 and is 15 for 34 in 10 games against Boston this year.

Baltimore second baseman Robert Andino left the game in the ninth after being hit in the left ear flap by a fastball from Mark Melancon.

The Red Sox had taken a 1-0 lead in the third on doubles by Daniel Nava and Pedro Ciriaco. Then Wieters got his first big hit of the night in the fourth with a two-run single with no outs. It drove in J.J. Hardy, who had singled, and Jones, who had doubled.

Boston tied it in the fifth when Gonzalez retired the first two batters then allowed consecutive singles by Ciriaco, Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia, who snapped an 0 for 18 slump.

The game was the start of the Red Sox’s final homestand of their first losing season since 1997. But they could have an impact on the postseason race with two home games each against Baltimore and Tampa Bay before they finish with three games at Baltimore and three at New York.

NOTES: The Orioles activated DH Jim Thome and LHP Troy Patton from the 15-day disabled list. … The Red Sox recalled 3B Danny Valencia and RHPs Pedro Beato and Zach Stewart from Triple-A Pawtucket. … Former pro wrestler George “The Animal” Steele, who wrestled at Fenway Park on June 28, 1969, threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. Known for biting the turnbuckle when he wrestled, he appeared to bite the ball before throwing. The other ceremonial pitch was thrown by Jim Roosevelt Jr., grandson of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who gave his final campaign speech at Fenway on Nov. 4, 1944. … Randy Wolf (2-0) is scheduled to pitch for the Orioles against Aaron Cook (4-10) on Saturday in the second game of the three-game series.

RAYS 12, BLUE JAYS 1: James Shields pitched seven shutout innings and Tampa Bay’s suddenly potent offense scored runs in bunches Friday night to help the Rays continue an uphill battle to remain in playoff contention with a 12-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ben Zobrist and Jose Molina homered in support of Shields (15-9), who limited the Blue Jays to six singles and struck out nine to reach 200 for the second straight year. He fanned J.P. Arencibia leading off the second inning, giving the Rays the American League single-season record for strikeouts.

Luke Scott drove in four runs with a pair of doubles for the Rays, who began the day 5½ games behind Baltimore and Oakland in the wild-card race.

Zobrist hit a solo homer in the first and Molina had a two-run shot in the second against Carlos Villanueva (7-6), who allowed seven runs and eight hits in 2 1-3 innings.

The Rays won for only the fourth time in 11 games, but the three-game winning streak that followed manager Joe Maddon’s decision to shut down batting practice and allow players to arrive at the ballpark a little later has revived hope that the team can finish strong and make the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

Maddon changed the pregame routine after his offense continued to sputter in losing Monday and Tuesday to begin a four-game series against Boston. After scoring 13 runs on Wednesday, the Rays used a six-run ninth to beat the Red Sox again Thursday and finished with 16 hits Friday.

Rays pitchers began the night with 1,264 strikeouts, two shy of the 2001 New York Yankees. Shields struck out Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion in the first, then got Arencibia swinging on a 2-2 pitch to begin the second.

The major league record is 1,404, set by the Chicago Cubs in 2003. The Rays have 1,275 with 11 games remaining.

Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar remained out of the starting lineup despite being eligible to return after serving a three-game suspension for wearing eye-black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston. He entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and singled off Brandon Gomes.

Yan Gomes followed with a double that drove in Toronto’s only run.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Escobar, who served the penalty this week during a trio of losses to the Yankees, may be back in the lineup on Saturday.

“When we met earlier today it became increasing clear during that discussion that he needs another day to get back and be ready to play a major league game,” Farrell said. “It’s not so much staying in shape or baseball activity, it’s just about how he’s dealing with the fallout of what he did. He’s remorseful for what took place, and as a result he needs another day to get things in line.”

Villanueva won his first six decisions this season, but he’s won once over his past 10 starts — a 2-0 victory over Tampa Bay at home on Aug. 30. He dropped to 0-3 lifetime at Tropicana Field, where he’s yielded five homers, 18 earned runs and 24 hits in 12 innings.

NOTES: Rays batters also have struck out at a prolific pace this season. They fanned just five times Friday night, but have 1,230 with 11 games left. They are the first team in AL history to have at least 1,200 strikeouts on both offense and defense. The league record is 1,324 by the 2007 Devil Rays. … The Blue Jays traded C Yorvit Torrealba to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a player to be named or cash. … Dating to 2007, Toronto has lost 16 consecutive road series against the Rays, who have won six of the seven games the teams have played at Tropicana Field this year. … Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher used a hockey stick to shoot the ceremonial first pitch from the mound across home plate.

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