BALTIMORE (AP) — Chris Tillman and the Orioles are experiencing a resurgence that just might lead to a return trip to the playoffs for Baltimore and its ace.
Tillman took a three-hitter into the ninth inning, Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy homered and the Orioles beat the skidding Atlanta Braves 2-0 on Wednesday night for a three-game sweep.
Tillman (8-7) was lifted after giving up a two-out double to Cameron Maybin in the ninth. The right-hander had retired 13 straight batters to that point.
Zach Britton got the final out for his 26th save.
On May 31, Tillman was 2-7 with a 5.94 ERA. Since then, he’s won six straight decisions and is 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his last six starts.
“I don’t think confidence was ever an issue,” Tillman said. “Early in the season it wasn’t going well, but I felt like it was close. I felt like I was one pitch away at all times.”
The victory was the fifth straight for Baltimore, tying a season high. The surge has carried the Orioles within one game of Minnesota for the second AL wild-card slot.
Baltimore has allowed only seven runs during its winning streak, which includes its first sweep of Atlanta since 1999.
“Pitching like we’ve been pitching keeps you in every game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’ll take my chances with that.”
Since reaching .500 on July 7, the Braves have lost 13 of 17 overall and 10 of 11 on the road.
“They pitched good during the series and got some big home runs,” former Oriole Nick Markakis said. “They closed out games. They have a good ball club over there.”
With hope for a playoff berth fading quickly, there is speculation that Atlanta is ready to deal talent before Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
“The only thing I can say is I got here, turned my phone on and there’s nothing on my phone,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said in his office. “I am not talking about Twitter. I am not on Twitter. I didn’t get anything from our general manager or anything like that. So, as far as I am concerned, there’s no truth to those rumors right now.”
Recalled from Triple-A before the game, Mike Foltynewicz (3-3) gave up two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out eight and walked two.
“He pitched great,” Gonzalez said. “He threw some split-fingers that we wanted him to go down to the minor leagues and work on. You saw some of it there in tonight’s game. He pitched terrific. He really did.”
But Tillman was better. Much better.
“Guys like him are striving for perfection in a job and a world that just won’t let it happen,” Showalter said. “He came close to it tonight.”
After the start of the game was delayed by rain for 33 minutes, Tillman went to work. He faced the minimum nine batters over the first three innings, the lone runner reaching on an error before being erased on a double play.
Schoop hit Foltynewicz’s first pitch of the third inning over the wall in center field for a 1-0 lead.
Markakis got Atlanta’s initial hit leading off the fourth but was wiped out on a double play. Hardy homered in the bottom half, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.