Rays now 3 back of Red Sox in AL wild-card race

BALTIMORE -- B.J. Upton was far more delighted with a victory than etching his name in the Tampa Bay record book -- twice.

Upton doubled twice and took two walks to set a team mark by reaching base in nine straight plate appearances, and the resurgent Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

Upton went 4 for 4 with a walk on Sunday against Boston, then reached base four successive times against the Orioles before striking out in the eighth inning. Eight times previously a Tampa Bay player got on base in eight straight plate appearances, the last one being Upton in May 2008.

The two walks made Upton the Rays' career leader with 375. Carlos Pena held the record with 373.

Upton was pleased with his accomplishment, only because it contributed to Tampa Bay's eighth win in nine games. The Rays moved within three games of idle Boston in the AL wild-card race after trailing by nine on Sept. 2.

"I just want to help this team whether it's offensively or defensively, and right now it happens to be on the offensive end," Upton said. "I feel good right now, and I'll just try to feel good as long as I can. The hits are just falling."

And manager Joe Maddon is loving it.

"That's pretty impressive. He's getting good at-bats," Maddon said. "He's been taking his walks and when they come in the zone he's hitting it. He's been fantastic, he's been really high-end of late, maybe as good as I've seen him. He's playing with a lot of focus and intensity."

Ben Zobrist had three hits and three RBIs for the Rays and Jeff Niemann (10-7) gave up two runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings. Neimann's previous outing, a defeat against Texas on Sept. 6, was Tampa Bay's lone loss in nine games.

Joel Peralta worked the ninth for his third save.

After playing Baltimore twice more, the Rays head to Boston for a four-game series. They would love to arrive at Fenway Park down by three games or fewer.

"It will be more exciting," Peralta said.

The victory assured the Rays (82-64) of their fourth consecutive winning season. Only the New York Yankees (19), Red Sox (14) and Philadelphia Phillies (9) have a longer current streak.

But Tampa Bay is looking for more, such as its third playoff appearance in four years.

"There's nothing to complain about right now," Maddon said. "We've worked ourselves back into a good spot."

Matt Wieters homered for the Orioles, who have dropped three straight. Baltimore needs to go 5-11 the rest of the way to avoid the third 100-loss season since the team moved from St. Louis in 1954.

Rookie starter Zach Britton (9-10) gave up five runs, five hits and four walks in five innings. He was 3-0 in his last four starts.

"It starts and stops with fastball command," manager Buck Showalter said. "That's one of the reasons Tampa is doing a good job with their starters. They have guys with good command of the fastball. Zach didn't have it tonight."

The Rays went up 3-0 in the third. Brandon Guyer doubled and Upton walked before Zobrist hit a two-run double and scored on a two-out single by Sean Rodriguez.

Upton hit a leadoff double in the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Johnny Damon for a 4-0 lead.

Robert Andino doubled in a run for Baltimore in the bottom half, and Wieters hit his 18th homer in the sixth.

Upton doubled off Jeremy Accardo leading off the seventh and Zobrist delivered an RBI single.

Game notes
The Rays have won 22 straight when scoring at least five runs. ... Tampa Bay purchased the contract of LHP Matt Moore from Triple-A Durham, giving the Rays 32 players on the active roster. ... Baltimore activated RHP Jason Berken (forearm strain) from the 15-day DL. ... Tampa Bay is 6-1 in Baltimore and 3-6 against the Orioles at home. ... The Rays send 12-game winner David Price to the mound Tuesday night against Baltimore's Alfredo Simon, who is 1-0 lifetime in five appearances against Tampa Bay.