Orioles-Blue Jays Preview
By JON PALMIERI
(AP) -- 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.
Adam Lind hit a two-run homer and Colby Rasmus returned from the disabled list with a solo shot for Toronto (67-80), which has posted a 6.25 ERA during a four-game slide.
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.
Updated September 13, 2013