Orioles inching closer to postseason berth with win

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- The combination of Chris Tillman's pitching and Ryan Flaherty's power gave the Baltimore Orioles a crucial pennant-race victory Friday night.

Flaherty hit a first-inning grand slam moments after Chris Davis belted a two-run homer, and Tillman threw eight innings of one-hit baseball to help the Orioles to a 9-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles (90-67) are trying to lock up their first playoff spot since 1997, and they could do that with three wins in their last five games, regardless of what any other team does.

Flaherty later added an RBI double and finished 2-for-4 with a career-high five RBI. The Orioles, who homered seven times in their last game, finished with two this time and set a new franchise record for homers in a season at Camden Yards with 122.

Flaherty's gotten several chances recently after second baseman Robert Andino was hit in the head in Boston last Friday night. Since manager Buck Showalter gave Flaherty some more playing time at second base, he's hit two homers, two doubles, a triple and driven in eight runs.

"You don't know when opportunities are going to come, so when you do get a chance ... you take advantage of them," Flaherty said. "Anything you can to do help this team win this team of the year."

Flaherty has come on late after spending much of August on the disabled list (bacterial infection). He seemed to turn things around after playing nine games with Triple-A Norfolk, batting .289 in a rehab assignment.

Norfolk manager Ron Johnson is assisting the Orioles at times this month and was very impressed when working with Flaherty in August and again on this night.

"He's got a production bat," Johnson said. "He can do damage when he swings and he gets pitches to hit, and that's the thing that impresses me about him."

Boston scored a run in the first when leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik reached on a bunt single and went to second on second baseman Flaherty's throwing error when he tried to make a bare-handed play. Podsednik moved to third on a Pedro Ciriaco sacrifice and scored on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly for a quick 1-0 lead.

But the Red Sox (69-88) couldn't do anything else against Tillman (9-2), who held them to that one hit. Tillman mixed his pitches, stayed ahead in the count throughout and shut down Boston to won his fourth straight decision.

The right-hander also retired the final 14 batters he faced.

"We were behind his fastball most of the time, we were out in front of his breaking ball," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. "He had a good curveball. He threw effectively, and we didn't solve him."

Showalter considered sending Tillman out to finish the game, but instead put in Troy Patton. The left-hander finished the job and limited the Red Sox to that one hit.

"(Tillman) was good, really good," Showalter said. "It was one of those games we were confident he could finish but what's best for him is best for us. He had a good four-pitch mix going and stayed in the strike zone."

Tillman's had some problems in the early innings this season. In fact, 15 of the 35 runs he's allowed have come in the first inning. But Tillman bounced back and only two batters reached in the final seven frames.

"I felt pretty good with all my stuff, and I was confident in the fact that we were able to get ahead, and I was able to throw strikes," Tillman said. "I feel like I'm confident in my delivery, and when you have confidence in that, things will play out well for you."

Things also will play out well when your teammates help on offense. Davis added two RBI, and Manny Machado went 2-for-4 with two RBI as the Orioles banged out 12 hits.

After Tillman gave up that run in the top of the first, the Orioles very answered quickly with six runs off Aaron Cook (4-11) in the bottom of the inning.

Nate McLouth led off with a single and scored when Davis lined his one-out homer to right-center for a 2-1 lead. Jim Thome started the rest of the rally with a two-out single to left, and Mark Reynolds walked.

Machado singled to left, but Thome was held at third, loading the bases. Flaherty then crushed a 2-1 pitch into the seats in right-center to give Baltimore an early 6-1 lead.

Cook lasted just one inning plus two batters and threw 42 pitches -- only 18 of which were strikes. He gave up six runs on five hits, including the two homers in the six-run first inning.

This was the shortest start of Cook's career.

Alfredo Aceves took over in the second and pitched well until running into trouble in the fifth. Machado and Reynolds hit back-to-back RBI doubles followed by a Taylor Teagarden RBI single for a 9-1 Baltimore lead.

Notes: Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was not at the ballpark Friday following the birth of his son, Maverick Luther, at 5:11 a.m. He tipped the scales at eight pounds, two ounces and the baby and mother, Maria, are reportedly doing fine. ... Jason Hammel still continues to try to come back from the knee problems that have dogged him throughout the second half of the season. He tossed a three-inning simulated game at Oriole Park Friday and there's the possibility the right-hander could throw another one Monday or Tuesday down in Sarasota, Fla. ... The Red Sox have set a new club record this year with 56 players appearing in a game so far. That broke the previous mark of 55 from 1996. ... Podsednik's first-inning bunt single stretched his hitting streak to six games, and he's gotten hits in his last seven starts.
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