Joe Saunders of the Baltimore Orioles tips his hat to...

Joe Saunders of the Baltimore Orioles tips his hat to the crowd after leaving the game in the eighth inning. (Sept. 30, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

BALTIMORE -- The home team gave the 41,257 in attendance plenty to cheer about Sunday in the Orioles' 6-3 victory over the Red Sox at Camden Yards.

There was Nate McLouth's leadoff home run, which helped the Orioles take a 3-0 first-inning lead they'd never relinquish. In the third, J.J. Hardy provided the eventual winning run by homering on his own bobblehead day. In the fifth, Chris Davis tied an Orioles record by hitting a home run for the fourth consecutive game. Jim Johnson closed out the Red Sox for his 50th save.

And a few hours later, when the Rangers won the second game of a doubleheader over the Angels, 8-7, the Orioles clinched at least an AL wild-card berth. It will be their first playoff appearance since 1997.

Last season, the Orioles finished last in the division and 26th in attendance. This weekend, more than 120,000 fans filed into Oriole Park to witness a three-game sweep.

"It's fun playing in front of 40,000 Orioles fans," centerfielder Adam Jones said. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. If it's 40,000 and it's half blue, half red, half orange, that's not fun."

Although in the playoffs, the Orioles have a bigger goal: They want to win their first AL East crown since 1969. Baltimore (92-67) plays at Tampa Bay Monday night for a regular season-ending three-game set, tied with the Yankees for first place. "That's the thing with this division," Davis said. "It seems like there's three teams every year fighting for the playoffs. But we're going to take on the challenge."

Said Johnson: "You don't want to leave it to that one game of chance."

The Red Sox (69-90), who have lost 90 games for the first time since 1966, can help Baltimore's cause by playing spoiler in a three-game set at Yankee Stadium beginning Monday night.

"We just want to get a win first," Red Sox reliever Clayton Mortensen said. "If it happens that [the Yankees] don't go to the playoffs because of it, it would be even better."

Too late. The Yankees already are in, too.

The Sox have lost nine of 10 and five in a row. But for the next few days, Boston can expect a bunch of new fans. "The Red Sox can help us achieve our goal," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "I think we'll all be pulling for them, at least for these next three games."

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