Nelson Cruz continues to rake for the Orioles, crushing a seventh-inning double Tuesday. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

In a playoff season, contending teams need to occasionally win ugly. Good teams must capitalize on a few mistakes by lesser clubs on nights when few things go right except the final score.

Tuesday’s marathon would fit neatly into that category for the Orioles, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, in a sluggish display between teams heading in different directions in the American League East.

At this point, though, the Orioles (75-55) don’t need style points. They just have to keep winning. And with a couple key hits and a bullpen that didn’t allow a run in 4 1 / 3 innings, they have now beaten the Rays (64-68) in 10 of their 14 meetings this season.

With the New York Yankees’ loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, the Orioles are back to a seven-game lead in the division.

For half of the night, it appeared that neither team would push ahead before another small weekday crowd at Camden Yards, this one announced at 16,406.

The Orioles eventually took the lead in the bottom of the sixth against a pitcher who was supposed to be their closer in 2014: Rays reliever Grant Balfour, who had agreed to a deal with the Orioles in December before the club backed out because of concerns after his physical.

Balfour walked Steve Pearce to start the seventh, and Adam Jones followed with a single before the Australian right-hander was pulled. Nelson Cruz doubled against Joel Peralta to score Pearce, a run that was charged to Balfour (1-6). He has now allowed 31 earned runs in 50 1 / 3 innings.

The Orioles were fortunate to have a chance to rally, given the shaky performance by the normally steady Wei-Yin Chen.

— Baltimore Sun