Padres-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles continue to play well, even though their fragile starting rotation may have taken another hit.

They'll look to Chris Tillman to give them a much-needed strong start when they host the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

Baltimore (23-15) has won six of eight and looks forward to an eight-game homestand - the first two coming versus the Padres - after playing 14 of 17 on the road. The Orioles capped that stretch with a 6-0 win at Minnesota on Sunday, though it was bittersweet.

A strained right oblique forced Wei-Yin Chen to exit after five innings. Chen, who's allowed two runs in 11 1-3 innings over his past two starts, is expected to go on the 15-day disabled list.

With Chen likely sidelined for a couple weeks, the rotation remains Baltimore's primary weakness. The Orioles rank in the top 10 in most offensive categories and their bullpen ERA of 2.64 is also among the best, while their 11 errors are the second fewest.

The starting staff, however, has a 4.70 ERA that's among the highest in baseball. Along with Chen, Tillman (3-1, 3.76) has been one of the few bright spots, winning three straight starts and posting a 2.03 ERA in his past four outings.

The right-hander's ERA in his first three starts was 7.07, but he's pitched at least six innings in his last four games.

"You get your team deep in the ballgame, you feel good about it, whether or not you featured your best stuff," Tillman told the team's official website.

The Padres (16-21) were swept in three games at Tampa over the weekend, the same number of defeats they suffered in the previous 14 games.

San Diego squandered a lead in each loss as it was swept for the fourth time, one shy of last season's total. Closer Huston Street allowed Evan Longoria's winning home run with two outs in the ninth Saturday, and the Rays went ahead Sunday on Yunel Escobar's RBI double in the sixth.

"They were three well-played close games that didn't go our way,'' manager Bud Black said. "They got the big hit last night in the ninth. Escobar got a big hit today. So, a couple of pitches back, we win two out of three.''

The Padres struck out 38 times in the series - their most in a three-game set since they had 40 against the New York Yankees from June 17-19, 2008.

Baltimore was much better offensively over the weekend, collecting 20 runs and 41 hits in taking two of three from the Twins.

"We've been swinging the bats well the last few days, and it feels good to win a game by a pretty good margin,'' said first baseman Chris Davis, who hit his 11th homer Sunday.

Andrew Cashner (2-2, 3.23 ERA) will be tasked with slowing down the Orioles' lineup. Beginning the season as a reliever after a thumb injury hindered him in spring training, he has a 2.95 ERA in four starts.

The right-hander is coming off the longest outing of his career, allowing four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-0 victory over Miami last Monday.

Nick Markakis has gone 11 for 25 in six games against the Padres and is a career .351 hitter in interleague play.

The Orioles own a 5-4 advantage in the all-time series with San Diego.

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