ARLINGTON, TEX. — The first and only time Chris Tillman had pitched at Rangers Ballpark back in July 2010, the Baltimore Orioles right-hander turned in what was perhaps his signature performance as a major-leaguer, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning against a club that eventually made it to the World Series.
Tillman wasn’t that unhittable Tuesday night, but he was plenty good enough as the Orioles picked up a 5-3 victory to set up a series rubber match with the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
The only early mistake Tillman made was allowing a third inning solo homer to Ian Kinsler, who incidentally broke up Tillman’s no-hitter with a one-out single two-plus years ago.
On Tuesday, Tillman cruised into the seventh with a four-run lead before serving up a two-run shot to new Rangers catcher Geovany Soto. Tillman, who was coming off two consecutive disappointing outings in which he failed to get through six innings, was pulled with two outs in the seventh.
And that’s when things really got interesting on a mild August night before an announced crowd of 32,146.
Former Ranger Darren O’Day allowed a walk and a single to the only batters he faced, and Pedro Strop, another ex-Ranger, came in to face slugger Josh Hamilton. On a 3-2 count, Hamilton crushed a slider to deep right that just sailed foul. Strop then threw another slider past Hamilton to end the threat.
Strop threw a scoreless eighth and Jim Johnson delivered a perfect ninth to pick up his 38th save in 41 attempts. Johnson is now second in franchise history for saves in a season behind only Randy Myers’s 45 saves in 1997.
Tillman (6-2) made it into the seventh by mixing his pitches and moving them all around the plate. He walked just one and scattered six hits while throwing 64 of his 101 pitches for strikes. He struck out seven, tying a season-high set in his first start of the season in Seattle.
With the victory, the Orioles (67-56) have 35 road wins, their most since 2005 and tied for most in the American League with the Tampa Bay Rays. They also have a chance to win four consecutive road series if they can beat the AL West-leading Rangers (71-51) on Wednesday.
The Orioles also held on to the second wild-card spot, moved within one game of the Rays for the top post and five games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees in the division race.
Tuesday’s game was knotted at 1-1 in the fifth when the Orioles exploded for four runs against Rangers right-hander Scott Feldman.
Rookie Manny Machado had the first big hit, an RBI triple to right-center for his eighth extra-base hit in 12 big league games. J.J. Hardy plated Machado with a double and Nate McLouth followed with his first homer with the Orioles, a two-run shot.