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OAK@BAL: Betemit walks off with a three-run shot

BALTIMORE -- There weren't any wild celebrations taking place in the Orioles locker room late Sunday afternoon. Truth be told, it was rather quiet, almost low-key.

But should it have been? Wilson Betemit had just hit a three-run walk-off homer that gave the Orioles a wild 5-2 victory over Oakland before 31,793 at Oriole Park. The homer sent the crowd into a frenzy and put the Orioles six games over .500 for the first time since July 20, 2005.

In fact, in the locker room players were acting as if it was just another day's business. The Orioles (14-8) had a game to play, and they came out and won it. When asked what the win meant, starting pitcher Tommy Hunter gave a very simple answer.

"We're good," Hunter said. Then he paused for several seconds.

"We're good," he said again.

This is a team that believes in itself. The Orioles have confidence and feel there's no reason they can't win whenever they take the field. That's why the Orioles are battling the Rays for first place in the American League East -- holding a half-game lead heading into Tampa Bay's Sunday night game.

In fact, the Orioles now have a 1 1/2-game lead over the third-place Yankees -- and are heading up to New York to start a series with them on Monday night. That's another reason they weren't going wild with celebration. There's another game to be played very soon.

"It's a nice win, and we'll enjoy this one on the train," said catcher Matt Wieters. "But we've got New York tomorrow, so we'll worry about them when we get there."

The Orioles didn't appear ready to have much to smile about heading into that bottom of the ninth. Bartolo Colon had shut out the Orioles through eight, and Oakland (11-12) took a 2-0 lead into the ninth. But that's where he ran into trouble. J.J. Hardy reached on an infield single and moved to third when Adam Jones got another infield single, and Colon made a throwing error.

That put runners on first and third with one out. Grant Balfour (0-1) came on in relief and gave up a two-run double to Wieters off of the left-field wall. Balfour then intentionally walked Chris Davis to put runners at first and second with two outs.

Betemit then crushed a 3-1 fastball to right-center for the three-run homer that gave the Orioles their sixth win in the last seven games.

"I didn't know," Betemit said of the homer. "I just swing at it. I don't know the ball is gone. I just hit the ball, and I tried to put it in play."

Balfour came into the game with six saves, but was in trouble from the start and couldn't lock up the win.

"The momentum was going their way, and I fell behind," Balfour said. "Betemit put a good swing on it, and that's the way it goes. Today is a day I have to move on from. They're a good team over there."

Pedro Strop got the win thanks to a scoreless top of the ninth inning. He also had two saves in the Toronto series, and this victory let the Orioles finish the six-game homestand with a 5-1 record.

Hunter gave the Orioles a strong effort, giving up two runs in seven innings. He allowed an RBI double from Yoenis Cespedes in the sixth, plus a Seth Smith solo homer in the seventh for the 2-0 lead.

The Orioles helped Hunter with a number of good defensive plays behind him. Left fielder Nolan Reimold reached into the stands to rob Kurt Suzuki of a homer. Right fielder Nick Markakis threw out a runner at second, and center fielder Adam Jones made a nice sliding catch of an Eric Sogard blooper.

Mark Reynolds made his first start of the season at first base and came up with some good plays, even starting a 3-6-3 double play. The Orioles needed all of that to stay close and set up the ninth-inning rally.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter also was very low-key in his postgame press conference. His voice, expression and demeanor made it seem like game wasn't different from any other. He acted just like his players -- they're six games over .500, happy to be there and looking for more.

In other words, they're not done yet.

"[Being six games over .500] beats the alternative," Showalter said. "I just like seeing a lot of our guys getting a return for what they've been putting into it from a team standpoint. We will take them one day at a time."

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