Wednesday night's win over the Kansas City Royals didn't follow any sort of traditional script, but the result remained a familiar one for these surging Orioles.
They managed just five hits but took advantage of three Kansas City errors in the fifth inning en route to a 5-3 win before an announced 12,344 at Camden Yards.
It was the Orioles' fourth straight victory and the third straight game they won despite being being out-hit by their opponent. Using stingy defense, clutch late-inning pitching and opportunistic baserunning, the Orioles (21-13) are a season-high eight games above .500 and now share first place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox.
“I find it just good baseball,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It's what allows you to be consistent. That's just the description of the things you have to do to be successful. Pitch well and with a good tempo, and catch it and don't walk people. And if you get some [runners] out there, you better take advantage of it. If that's the description, then I'm in.”
With Wednesday's win, the Orioles have clinched their eighth series victory in 11 this season. They have won six of their past seven series, including their past four at Camden Yards.
The Orioles also ran their franchise-record winning streak when leading at the completion of seven innings to 108 games, just eight shy of the New York Yankees' expansion era record set in 1998 and '99.
Despite allowing a leadoff single in the ninth, closer Jim Johnson converted his 34th consecutive regular-season save opportunity, tying Randy Myers' franchise record set 16 years ago. Johnson's streak dates back to July 30, 2012.
The Orioles were outhit by Kansas City, 7-5, but they took advantage of three Royals errors in the fifth for a three-run rally.
After Chris Dickerson led off the inning with a double to right, Nate McLouth hit a grounder to shortstop, and Alcides Escobar's throw to third hit off Dickerson's leg for a throwing error.
Manny Machado singled to drive in Dickerson and put runners at the corners, then Machado broke to steak second. Royals catcher George Kottaras' throw skipped away from Escobar, and McLouth broke for home and scored past Escobar's wild throw to the plate, putting Machado at third.
Machado would later score on a wild pitch to complete an inning that featured just two hits but gave the Orioles a 5-1 lead.
“You know, at the end of the day, it's whoever scores the most runs, so we made key hits today,” Machado said. “Our goal is to get on base and get deep into counts and bring in those runs when they get on. When we can pick up on errors like that, it's huge. That brings up the momentum for us and brings it down for them. That's baseball.”
Chris Tillman (3-1) won his third consecutive start and recorded his fourth straight quality start, yielding three runs on five hits over six innings with two walks and three strikeouts. In his last four outings, Tillman is pitching to a 1.88 ERA, allowing just six earned runs over his last 28 2/3 innings.
“It's always good to come out with a win,” Tillman said. “You get your team deep in the ballgame, you feel good about it whether or not you had featured your best stuff. ... I'd like to get deeper, but you feel good about it.”
Tillman overcame a 29-pitch second inning Wednesday that included three three-ball counts, and he extended his personal scoreless streak to 15 innings before Alex Gordon's two-out solo homer in the fifth.
With the Orioles leading 5-1 in the sixth, Tillman issued a two-out walk to Lorenzo Cain, then he yielded a first-pitch homer to Mike Moustakas to cut the Orioles' lead to two runs.
But the bullpen sealed another win late. After Troy Patton tossed a scoreless seventh, Darren O'Day struck out the first two batters of the eighth before allowing an infield single and hitting a batter.
Brian Matusz came in and needed just one pitch to end the inning, getting Moustakas to pop up to catcher Matt Wieters behind the plate.
J.J. Hardy gave the Orioles an early lead with his third homer in four games, a two-run shot to left off Royals starter Luis Mendoza (0-2) in the second inning.
A week ago, Hardy was hitting just .188, but he has hit safely in five straight games, going 7-for-18 with five RBIs in that span and raising his average to .215.
“I feel like we really haven't lost a step from where we finished or how we finished last year,” Johnson said. “But we're still getting better in certain areas. There are some guys that are still trying to find their little footholds here and there. But I think ... now that we're past that first month, guys are really starting to get a good feel for what's going on and what's expected of them. All 25 are going in the same direction.”