The Baltimore Orioles sent staff ace Chris Tillman to the mound tonight against the Yankees and he didn't disappoint. Two runs allowed in seven innings was good enough for the Orioles, who manufactured(!) four runs without the benefit of a home run.
Anyone who has watched Tillman pitch knows that he's prone to giving up homers, and that's what he did again tonight. Thankfully, as if often the case with him, they were solo shots. The first to homer was the second batter of the night, Alex Rodriguez. It gave the Yankees a lead that didn't last long. After the home run by Rodriguez, Tillman shut down the Yankee hitters over the next six innings. He allowed two baserunners in innings two through seven, both singles. He struck out the side swinging in the seventh. He came back to start the eighth inning and immediately gave up his second home run of the night, this one to Lyle Overbay. Buck Showalter was ready, though, and pulled Tillman right after that.
With Tillman shutting down the the Yankees, the Orioles got to work on CC Sabathia. Nick Markakis, who was inexplicably hitting leadoff, started the bottom of the first with an automatic double. It was the start of a three-hit night for Nick, so I guess Buck knows more than we do (or he just got lucky). With a runner on second, Manny Machado bunted Nick over to third. I don't know that I liked that play, but there's no disputing that it set up the first O's run of the game when Adam Jones hit a fly ball out to center field. Markakis tagged and slid in ahead of the tag with the tying run.
The score remained tied until the fifth inning when the Orioles scored two more. The second run of the game looked a lot like the first. J.J. Hardy was the first batter of the inning and he lined a double down the left field line. Hardy moved to third on a piece of nice baserunning. Mike Morse hit a ground ball to third base and A-Rod checked Hardy back to second before throwing to first for the out. The second he let go of the ball, though, Hardy took off and slid in safely. He then came in to score on a sac fly by Matt Wieters. So the Orioles still weren't hitting with runners in scoring position, but they were knocking in runs. Baby steps, I suppose.
The next batter was Sabathia's arch-nemesis, Alexi Casilla. Casilla singled on a ground ball between the third baseman and shortstop, then stole second base. Markakis was at the plate and he came through again. He singled up the middle and Casilla came in with the third O's run of the game.
The bottom of the seventh inning looked like it might be big for the Orioles, but they had to settle for just one final run. Wieters walked and then Casilla hit a ground ball back to Sabathia. He fired to second but threw wide and Wieters was safe. Markakis' magic ran out, though, and he did hit into a double play. Manny picked him up, though, with his 49th double of the season off of the scoreboard. Wieters scored easily but Machado was stranded when Adam Jones struck out.
After Tillman gave up a home run to Overbay to start the eighth inning, Showalter immediately went to the bullpen and brought in Tommy Hunter. Hunter wasn't messing around as he struck out the side. That just left the ninth inning for the Orioles to get through to secure the win. Even though Jim Johnson has looked a lot better of late, it can still be a little nerve wracking when he comes into the game.
Johnson was scheduled to face Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Alfonso Soriano. No worries, right? It looked like JJ had his sinker working, but that didn't stop Rodriguez from smoking a pitch back up the middle for a single. There wasn't any time to get worked up over it, though, because Cano hit the first pitch to Hardy for an easy double play...until Casilla threw the ball away. Pretty much the only thing Casilla is good at is defense, so you hate to see that. Soriano also hit a ground ball, but the ball was hit too slowly and he beat out the relay.
With two outs, Curtis Granderson stepped to the plate. He worked the count full before sending a fly ball to center field. It was hit hard enough to make us all hold our breath, but Jones settled under it on the warning track and got it for the final out.
O's win! They are now 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees and with the Rays off today, they are just 1 1/2 behind them for the second wild card spot. Unfortunately the Indians also won tonight so they remain tied with the O's.