With a chance to complete a road sweep of one of the best teams in the AL, the Baltimore Orioles will start one of the most successful pitchers of the past two years.
Chris Tillman heads into Sunday night seeking his ninth win in 10 decisions for the Orioles, who look to make it five straight victories over the struggling Texas Rangers.
Baltimore (55-43) has won four in a row in this season series after losing the first two meetings. The Orioles scored in each of the first three innings for a 7-0 lead Saturday and held on for a 7-4 victory to move a season-best 12 games over .500.
Adam Jones homered for the fourth time in five games and Matt Wieters had three of the Orioles’ 17 hits.
”You’re piggybacking each other. (Nate) McClouth is our ringleader; he starts the game off,” said Jones, 9 for 17 with eight RBIs in those five contests. ”The first two days he’s started the game off with hits and he gives us a little bit of energy.”
Chris Davis remained stuck on a major-league best 37 home runs but had two hits after entering with an .088 (3 for 34) average against his former team.
Davis has homered in each of Tillman’s last six starts, with Baltimore scoring 38 runs in those games.
A late addition to the All-Star team, Tillman (11-3, 3.95 ERA) is 8-1 in his past 10 starts despite a 4.34 ERA. He’s only pitched past the sixth inning once in his last seven outings and has been helped by a 6.29 run-support average, among the highest in the AL.
”I’ve said it a hundred times - the quicker you get these guys back in the dugout and in the batter’s box, the more is going to happen,” Tillman said.
While fortunate, Tillman has also been good enough to go 20-6 since the start of last season. His .769 winning percentage ranks behind Detroit’s Max Scherzer (29-8, .784) for the league lead during that span.
Tillman continued his trend of slow starts July 12 against Toronto, but settled down to allow three runs over six innings of an 8-5 win. Twelve of the 50 runs the right-hander has surrendered this year have come in the second inning.
He’s won his last two starts against the Rangers, both in Arlington, giving up three earned runs in 14 innings.
Texas (54-43) has lost six of seven, totaling 16 runs and going 6 for 43 with runners in scoring position during that span.
”It’s obvious we need to pitch better, it’s obvious we need to play the type of defense we know we can play,” manager Ron Washington said. ”And it’s obvious we need to start hitting with runners in scoring position.”
The lack of offense could leave little room for error for Martin Perez (3-2, 3.00), who is coming off his worst outing of the season.
The left-hander went 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA during a four-start stretch, including an 8-4 win at Baltimore on July 9 in which he gave up four runs - two earned - in six innings. However, Perez allowed five runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss at Detroit last Sunday.
He surrendered a career-high three homers after giving up two in his first 30 1-3 innings this year.