BALTIMORE -- In a season sprinkled with about equal parts poor performance and bad luck, Orioles ace Jeremy Guthrie -- who has an American League-leading 17 losses -- has made it no secret that his goal for the remainder of the season is to finish with 10 wins.
Guthrie inched closer to that mark on Wednesday night, going seven strong innings and matching a career high with 10 strikeouts, as the O's hit three homers in a 6-2 win over the Rays in the rubber game at Camden Yards.
Guthrie's performance -- backed by a three-run homer from Chris Davis and the continued power surge from catcher Matt Wieters -- helped keep the postseason-hopeful Rays from gaining any ground on the Red Sox, who also lost Wednesday, in the AL Wild Card race. It also granted last-place Baltimore a rare series victory against a previously red-hot Tampa Bay team in need of every possible win.
"A couple of their guys were like, 'You know you're out of it, right?,'" Davis said of a Rays club that entered Monday's series opener on a five-game win streak. "But the biggest thing for us is to finish strong. We know those guys are battling and we don't want to make it easy for them. We don't want to just lay down, so I think there's a sense of pride we carry with ourselves to go out there and compete."
"It's nice to play good baseball," added Wieters, who hit his third homer in as many games with a two-run shot in the eighth. "Our starting pitching was good this series. And that's what we're going to be playing for the rest of the year, continue to play good baseball and work on the consistency toward the end of the year, because we're going to be playing teams that are playing for the playoffs and playing for things. And they're going to be throwing their best at us."
Guthrie (8-17) threw his best stuff at Tampa Bay, picking up his second consecutive win for the first time this season and collecting the most strikeouts by an Orioles pitcher this year.
"The best pitch in baseball is a well-located fastball and strike one," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "When that happens, a lot of things open up for you.
"Jeremy had some really good stretches this year. Pitching in the Major Leagues is hard, OK? It's not something every guy on the street corner can do. He's had some very good outings."
Guthrie's only blemish came in the fourth, when the right-hander issued a pair of walks and allowed Matt Joyce's two-out, two-run double to give the Rays a short-lived 2-1 lead. Davis erased the deficit by blasting an 0-2 offering from Rays starter Wade Davis over the left-center-field fence for a pivotal three-run blow. It marked the second homer for Davis, acquired at the Trade Deadline from Texas, in an Orioles uniform and it was also his first hit of the series.
"For me the biggest thing coming off the [disabled list] was to see if my shoulder was healthy and see if I could drive the ball the other way, and that was something I really wasn't doing when I first got traded over here," said Davis, who was activated from the DL on Sept. 6. "And that's something that I feel like when I'm going good, it's something I do well."
"To see him get through that ball, I hope that's a testament to him feeling better physically," Showalter said of Davis' blast, which came on a pitch well out of the strike zone. "[And] to hit that ball in the gap off that left-hander [rookie Matt Moore], that's a pretty good indicator about his bat speed."
Nolan Reimold got the power surge going for the O's with a solo shot in the third inning, while Wieters set a new career high by homering in his third consecutive game. The 25-year-old Wieters tagged Moore, making his Major League debut, for a two-run shot in the eighth and his 20th homer this season.
"It's a good feeling to get to 20," said the switch-hitting Wieters, who was already having a career year offensively before embarking on his recent hot stretch.
"He's worked really hard, and continues to work really hard, to prepare not only mentally, but physically," Guthrie said of Wieters. "So, I think that's why you see how strong he's playing right now."
Guthrie is also experiencing a late-season surge of sorts, and with only one loss in his last four starts, could avoid being tagged with the dubious 20-loss mark.
"We had our way with him down in Tampa last week, and he made some adjustments," Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said of Guthrie, who held the Rays to just three hits. "He was able to locate the balls better [Wednesday night]."
And the O's, who are slated to play the Angels and Red Sox, in their next two series, continue to find ways to breathe small moments of life back into a disappointing season.
"I'm not about making statements and all that stuff," Showalter said of his team's play during the three-game set.
"[On Thursday] our guys have their first true off-day in 27 days. I'd just like for them to leave tonight and enjoy [Thursday]. The things that they've grinded through this year and continue to, I'm proud of them."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.