BALTIMORE (AP) — There’s still more than half a season left to play, so there’s no reason for the Baltimore Orioles to become overly excited about their current situation.
Then again, what harm is there in enjoying the moment?
Chris Tillman took a two-hitter into the seventh inning, Chris Davis hit his major league-leading 22nd home run and the Orioles blanked the Boston Red Sox 2-0 Friday night in a duel between the top two teams in the AL East.
Manny Machado had three hits for the Orioles, who have won five of six — including the first two in this four-game series. Baltimore moved within 1½ games of the division-leading Red Sox, the closest the Orioles have been to first place since May 13.
“Obviously you want to continue to play as well as you can, no matter if you’re at home or on the road, if it’s early or late in the season,” Davis said. “But we know we’re close. And any time a division rival comes in, you want to try to take as many games as you possibly can. I think we’re pleased with the way things have gone so far, and hopefully we can continue it.”
Tillman (7-2) allowed three hits and four walks in six-plus innings. The right-hander permitted only one runner to get past second base in winning his third straight start.
After bouncing between the majors and minor leagues last year, Tillman has emerged as Baltimore’s most steady starter.
“I said it in the spring,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Chris came in full aware that he was out of options. But he pitched like a guy who had three and didn’t want to go to (Triple-A) Norfolk. And that shows a lot of maturity, because he wanted to be a guy for us this year — and he has been so far.”
After Jose Iglesias chased Tillman with a leadoff double in the seventh, Darren O’Day got three successive outs. Tommy Hunter worked a perfect eighth and Jim Johnson completed the three-hitter to earn his 24th save.
Making his first career appearance at Camden Yards, 36-year-old Ryan Dempster (4-7) gave up two runs and five hits in 7 2-3 innings. He was victimized by a lack of offensive support — the Red Sox have gone 15 straight innings without scoring a run, and in this one they got only one hit after the fourth.
“The guy just pitched his tail off over there,” Dempster said. “Sometimes you just get outpitched. There is really nothing you can do about. We don’t get shut out very often. It’s kind of a rarity. … I felt good about my outing, for sure. I felt like I pitched well. The other guy just pitched better than me.”
Boston has lost two in a row for the first time since May 28-29 against Philadelphia, and its streak of winning four consecutive series is over. The Red Sox are 1-4 against the Orioles this season and have won only four of the last 17 games between the clubs.
Davis led off the second inning with an opposite-field drive into the left-field seats, his sixth homer in the last eight games against the Red Sox.
“I think Chris knows he doesn’t have to get into pull mode to be effective,” Showalter said. “That’s been good for him.”
Baltimore made it 2-0 in the third. Nate McLouth walked, took second on a single, advanced on a fly ball and scored when Adam Jones reached on a two-out dribbler down the third base line.
Tillman issued a walk in each of the first four innings but kept the Red Sox at bay. After Boston got runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, Will Middlebrooks hit a short fly to right and David Ross struck out.
“We did get a couple of guys on base over the course of the game, but it was a night where we couldn’t bunch anything together,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He did issue the four walks to give us a couple of opportunities. Still, when you take (Iglesias) out of the mix, where he got two out of three hits in that ballgame, Tillman did a good job of keeping us in check.”
NOTES: Machado hit two doubles to increase his majors-leading total to 30. He also extended his hitting streak to 12 games, a new career high. … The Red Sox recalled RHP Rubby De La Rosa from Triple-A Pawtucket and optioned RHP Alex Wilson to the same club. … The Orioles recalled RHP Jake Arrieta to fill out their weary bullpen. … After being designated for assignment Monday, Boston INF Pedro Ciriaco was traded to San Diego for a player to be named or cash. … John Lackey will start for Boston on Saturday against Baltimore and Freddy Garcia. Lackey is 11-4 lifetime against the Orioles and Garcia is 10-4 vs. Boston. … J.J. Hardy went hitless against Dempster and is 2 for 30 lifetime against the right-hander. … Iglesias has hit in 15 straight games in which he has a plate appearance. … The Orioles reinstated LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow) from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Norfolk. … McLouth stole his 23rd base, tying a career high.