Chris Tillman had his pitches working tonight, especially his hook. He flashed some amazing curveballs in the first several innings: a head-to-knee dropper that David Ortiz swung through for strike two, a yakker that Jonny Gomes swung through for strike three, and an Uncle Charlie that Jarrod Saltalamacchia stared at for another K.
Unfortunately, he was victimized by a Daniel Nava double and a Stephen Drew single and ended the top of the second down 1-0. The O's answered right back, though. Danny Valencia doubled to start the third, and Brian Roberts tried hard to advance him with a groundout to second. However, Dustin Pedroia alertly threw out Valencia going to third base. It wasn't even close; Valencia was tagged out a few feet in front of the bag, and there was a man on first (instead of third) with one out. Nate McLouth then walked, which turned out great when Machado doubled off the Green Monster. Both baserunners scored to make it 2-1 O's. The long third inning gave Valencia a plate appearance in the fourth; he doubled with two outs, but Brian Roberts grounded out to end it. Tillman got the Sox in order in the bottom half, including two strikeouts.
Adam Jones walked in the fifth, which is as rare and precious a sight as you will see these days. Chris Davis must have thought so also, because he hammered an 0-2 pitch that looked like #48 but turned out to be a long double instead. Jones scored standing up and it was 3-1 O's. Tillman made the run look even better by getting the Sox 1-2-3 again in the bottom half. But in the bottom of the sixth, Shane Victorino homered on a 3-1 fastball to make it 3-2. Tillman got out of the inning without and further damage and got the Sox 1-2-3 again in the seventh. His final line was great: 7 IP, 111 P, 8 K, 0 BB, 6 H, 2 ER.
Tommy Hunter came in to pitch the eighth inning, and Jacoby Ellsbury singled against him. Ellsbury steals bases like crazy, and with the second pitch, he was off and running. Luckily Victorino was bunting, and even more luckily he bunted it foul, so Ellsbury had to retreat to the bag. Ellsbury eventually stole second and moved to third base on a sac fly. WIth Ortiz coming in to bat, Buck brought in Brian Matusz for a classic LOOGY situation. Matusz delivered the key strikeout, and the O's were on to the ninth still ahead by one.
The O's got their own base stealer on in the top of the 9th, when Brandon Workman walked McLouth with one out. McLouth ran once but Machado, who was at the plate, fouled the ball off. Ultimately it didn't matter, since Machado walked (again!) to push McLouth to second anyway. Jones came up and struck out (and it wasn't even on a slider low & away). Now the Red Sox were in their own LOOGY situation, and John Farrell obliged by bringing in Craig Breslow. Davis obliged him right back by grounding out to the first baseman.
At this point, Jim Johnson was asked to protect a one-run lead, which made me a bit nervous. Things didn't look good when Daniel Nava nubbed out an infield hit that was helped by a miscommunication between Johnson and Davis at first. But things looked looked a lot better when Gomes GIDP'd, and finally things looked wonderful when Johnson struck out Saltalamacchia on a curveball. Ballgame!
So Tillman got his 15th win and the O's gained a game on the Red Sox, Rays, and A's -- all of whom lost today. The O's head to New York tomorrow for a three-game set with the Yankees, who are mounting their own dark horse playoff candidacy. Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to face C.C. Sabathia.