It seems like forever since the Baltimore Orioles have had a true top-of-the-rotation starter.
That drought may have finally ended thanks to Chris Tillman 's breakout season.
With a chance to become Baltimore's first 17-game winner in 14 years, the bigger concern for Tillman on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays is helping the Orioles make up ground in the wild-card race.
Before Tillman beat the Yankees on Monday for his 16th victory, the Orioles hadn't had a pitcher win that many games since Mike Mussina won 18 in 1999. The right-hander took a three-hitter into the eighth inning, allowing two runs and four hits over seven-plus. Tillman (16-5, 3.66 ERA) walked none for the second time in three starts and matched a career high with nine strikeouts."I was able to get in sync and kind of felt my way through the first couple innings," he said. "I found it later in the game and I think (catcher Matt Wieters ) gets a lot of the credit for that. He made some calls deep in the counts. And it was fun."
That was the last win for the Orioles (78-69) before they rallied for a 5-3 victory in Friday's series opener to end a three-game skid. Chris Davis tied a franchise record with his 50th home run and Adam Jones had three hits as Baltimore overcame a 3-0 deficit with three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth.
The Orioles remained 2 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild card."It's nice to have personal goals and to reach your own goals but when the team is winning and you are successful, it makes it that much sweeter," Davis said. "It was big to come from behind and get the win."
Davis became the 27th major leaguer to join the 50-homer club and matched Brady Anderson 's 1996 Orioles record. He is the third player in major league history with 50 homers and 40 doubles in the same season, joining Babe Ruth (1921) and Albert Belle (1995)."It's a humbling feeling to be in the same company with the guys I'm in," Davis said.
Davis has hit the most home runs (16) against the Blue Jays since the start of 2012, batting .366 with 33 RBIs in 31 games.
Danny Valencia had an RBI single and is batting .524 (22 for 42) since he was recalled from Triple-A on Aug. 19.
Jason Hammel and four relievers kept Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion in the park Friday, a rare occurrence for the Orioles. Encarnacion, who missed the previous four games with a sore left wrist, has 14 homers - seven this season - against Baltimore since 2012, the most by an opponent and four more than the next-highest total.
He's 7 for 21 with a home run off Tillman, who is 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season.
Rasmus is 5 for 11 with a homer and two doubles lifetime versus Tillman.
Toronto gives the ball to resurgent Esmil Rogers (5-7, 4.46). Moved to the bullpen last month, the right-hander has been outstanding since moving back into the rotation. He tossed his second straight scoreless outing Sunday, pitching three-hit ball over a career-high 7 2-3 innings in a 2-0 win at Minnesota.
Rogers has posted a 1.69 ERA in seven relief appearances against the Orioles, including 4 2-3 scoreless innings this season.
|August 31, 2013||Eric Beaulac||60-Day DL||Torn labrum, right hip|
|August 28, 2013||Steve Pearce||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 16, 2013||Francisco Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 14, 2013||Nolan Reimold||60-Day DL||Nerve inflammation in cervical spine|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 08, 2013||Moises Sierra||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|August 21, 2013||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left hip bone bruise - out for season|
|August 21, 2013||Maicer Izturis||60-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|August 17, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
TORONTO (AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles are struggling to come through in the clutch, and it's putting their playoff hopes in an increasingly precarious position.
Colby Rasmus hit a two-run home run, Jeremy Jefress won for the first time in more than two years and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Baltimore 4-3 on Saturday, handing the slumping Orioles their fifth loss in seven games.
Baltimore finished 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, the 11th time in 13 games they've had two hits or fewer in such situations.
"It's hard to do," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That's why it takes the best players in the world to do it. They've done it a lot more times than they haven't. It just gets magnified at this time of year."
The Orioles stranded eight runners, four of them at third base. They're batting .221 (36 for 163) with runners in scoring position in their past 21 games.
"We got a couple of timely hits but not enough today," catcher Matt Wieters said.
Baltimore, which came in 2 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay in the race for the second AL wild-card berth, failed to take advantage of the rival New York Yankees ' loss at Boston earlier in the day.
"It's not easy to make the playoffs, it sure isn't," Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth said. "Doing it last year was kind of an eye-opener on exactly how it's got to be done. It's a grind, it's a battle to make the playoffs."
With just 14 games remaining, Showalter said his players don't need to be told what's at stake.
"We've had urgency all year," he said. "This isn't some different dial we have to go to. Our guys get it."
Rasmus erased Baltimore's 3-2 lead by hammering a changeup from Chris Tillman (16-6) off the facing of the second deck in the seventh inning. For Rasmus, it was his 20th homer of the season and second in two days.
"He looks good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That doesn't always happen when you're out for that long and you don't get a whole lot of work in."
After missing more than a month with a strained muscle in his left side, Rasmus was activated off the 15-day disabled list before Friday's game, hitting a solo homer off Jason Hammel in Baltimore's 5-3 win.
Rasmus' long ball Saturday made the Blue Jays the first team in the majors this season with at least five 20-homer players. Edwin Encarnacion (36), Jose Bautista (28), J.P. Arencibia (20) and Adam Lind (20) are the others.
"I'm happy about it for sure," Rasmus said. "It feels good to hit 20 home runs."
The decisive homer was the 30th allowed by Tillman (16-6) this season. Only Oakland's A.J. Griffin (34) and Toronto's R.A. Dickey (31) have surrendered more.
"It wasn't a terrible pitch," Wieters said. "It probably could have been maybe a little bit lower and he might have gotten a groundball off of it. You've got to give credit to (Rasmus) because he kept it fair. It's a tough pitch to keep fair when you're a little bit out front. When he hit it, I thought it was going to hook foul for sure but it didn't."
Orioles slugger Chris Davis , who hit his 50th home run Friday, finished 1 for 4 with a double.
Jeffress (1-0) pitched one scoreless inning of relief to win for the first time since April 5, 2011, when he beat the Chicago White Sox while pitching for Kansas City.
Toronto's Aaron Loup got two outs in the eighth and Neil Wagner got the third, striking out Matt Wieters to strand runners at the corners.
Casey Janssen finished for his 30th save in 32 chances as the Blue Jays snapped a four-game losing streak
Tillman allowed four runs and six hits in eight innings to lose for the first time since Aug. 19, ending a five-start unbeaten run. The right-hander, who walked two and struck out four in his first career complete game, also failed to become Baltimore's first 17-game winner since Mike Mussina in 1999.
"He was solid, just got a couple of changeups up," Showalter said. "It's been a big pitch for him all year. Just elevated a couple and they made him pay for it."
Back-to-back doubles by Manny Machado and Davis gave the Orioles a lead in the first, snapping Blue Jays starter Esmil Rogers ' scoreless innings streak at 15.
Toronto answered in the bottom half when Moises Sierra hit a two-out, two-run double.
Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy drew back-to-back walks in the fourth and Wieters followed with an RBI single.
Gose hit a two-out triple in the second, but Jose Reyes flied out to end the inning. That was the first of eight straight outs by Tillman, a streak that ended when Gose singled in the fifth. Gose was later caught trying to steal second.
Brett Lawrie hit a leadoff single in the sixth but was erased on a double play. But Tillman's luck ran out after he walked Sierra to begin the seventh, with Rasmus homering on the very next pitch.
"I made a mistake and he put a good swing on it," Tillman said. "I've got to be better there. It's a big mistake."
Rogers allowed three runs and five hits in six innings. He walked two and matched his career high with seven strikeouts.
NOTES: Baltimore is 16-28 in one-run games this season. They went 29-9 in one-run games in 2012. ... Machado's double in the first was his major league-leading 50th of the season. ... Orioles RHP Miguel Gonzalez (9-7) faces Toronto LHP Mark Buehrle (11-8) in Sunday's series finale.