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BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles wrapped up their regular-season home schedule with a defeat, one that was much easier to take because of the circumstances surrounding it.
The Orioles' 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday didn't impact their stature as AL East champions. Afterward, there was no heartfelt farewell to the fans, because Camden Yards will be open for playoff baseball in October.
"We're excited to come back for the postseason," losing pitcher Miguel Gonzalez said. "It's exciting, definitely, for everyone."
Boston took two of three from the Orioles, who have been playing without several regulars in the lineup since claiming the division crown on Tuesday. Baltimore still has a chance to catch the Los Angeles Angels for home-field advantage throughout the postseason, but manager Buck Showalter's priority is keeping his team fresh and sharp for October.
Center fielder Adam Jones didn't start, and Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce were held out with minor injuries.
The trend will continue during the final week, which begins with a four-game series at Yankee Stadium followed by three games in Toronto. That's the benefit already of knowing you're in.
"It's allowed us to do a lot of things we normally wouldn't be able to do," Showalter said. "We're trying to keep our priorities in order here, and that's getting Steve back and getting Adam rested up some and getting Nicky back and getting our bullpen as good as they can be."
Gonzalez (9-9) allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings, his first start since Aug. 2 in which he failed to last six innings.
He was pitching on a extra day of rest, which he believes will ultimately prove benficial.
"It helped me. I felt good today," he said. "The ball was coming out well. I think it's going to be all right for us for the postseason."
The Orioles finished 50-31 at home, 31-10 since June 29. They did not lose successive games at Camden Yards after June 28-29.
"It's been a good club, pretty consistent home and away," Showalter said.
Joe Kelly pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the Red Sox got home runs from Mookie Betts and David Ross. Boston may be in last place, but it hasn't quit trying to win.
"With the amount of turnover that we've had and the new players we've added, there's always been good energy each day we take the field," manager John Farrell said. "It hasn't always worked out with the bottom line score, but our guys love to compete."
Kelly (3-2) gave up two runs, walked three and struck out five in his fifth successive outing of at least six innings. It was his ninth start for Boston since being traded to St. Louis in the July 31 deal that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals.
Edward Mujica got three outs for his eighth save.
Betts hit his first career leadoff home run, ending a run of 67 at-bats without going deep, to give Boston the early lead, and a two-out single by Yoenis Cespedes made it 2-0 in the fifth.
After Ross chased Gonzalez with a sixth-inning solo shot, Baltimore answered with two runs in the bottom half. David Lough hit an RBI double and Nelson Cruz drove in a run with a groundout.
It was the 106th RBI of the season for Cruz, who was chosen Most Valuable Oriole before the game in balloting by the Baltimore media.
Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts left in the second inning with neck stiffness and was replaced by former Orioles infielder Jemile Weeks.
Orioles: Markakis (shoulder) sat out a fourth straight game and Pearce (wrist) missed his second in a row. Showalter was not concerned about either's availability for the postseason. "Not at this point," the manager said.
Red Sox: Boston has Monday off before opening a three-game series against Tampa Bay, the start of a season-ending homestand that includes three games against the Yankees.
Orioles: LHP Wei-Yin Chen (16-4, 3.58 ERA) starts for Baltimore against the Yankees on Monday.
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