There's not a whole lot of mystery to this version of the Orioles.

Pitch well enough and hope for the home run — because no one in the sport is better at hitting baseballs a long way.

In an 11-8 slugfest victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, the Orioles' most consistent starter, Chris Tillman, struggled. But he was picked up by an offense that hit three more homers, including Nate McLouth's first career grand slam and Chris Davis' major league leading 40th of the season.

“We're confident [that] if we need a big hit, we've got guys that can drive the ball out of the ballpark,” Davis said. “Really, one through nine, you've got to worry about the home run, especially playing in this ballpark. But it's not something [where] we're consciously going up there [and] trying to hit home runs.”

The Orioles, who lead the majors with 146 longballs, were actually outhomered by the Mariners (50-59), who hit four Friday — but three were solo shots.

“The ball was flying, and they're a really good hitting team,” McLouth said. “They can do some damage at the plate. We shut them down when we needed to and scored enough to win.”

The third-place Orioles (61-49) moved to 4 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and have regained the second AL wild-card spot after the Cleveland Indians' 10-0 loss to the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Playing before an announced 25,947 at Camden Yards — which seemed as thrilled by the power display as they were with a seagull that glided around the park in the eighth inning and eventually flew beyond the center field wall to freedom — the Orioles again showed how important it was to go deep.

They are 50-35 when they hit a home run and 11-14 when they don't. And they are 17-2 in games in which they've bashed at least three homers.

And each one held some significance Friday.

McLouth's sixth-inning grand slam against reliever Brandon Maurer that gave the Orioles some needed breathing room was the 95th home run of his career and his first with the bases loaded.

“It's about time,” McLouth joked. “Guys were telling me congratulations and it was [bench coach John Russell] that said it was about time. He was right on with that one.”

Davis' third-inning, 442-foot blast made him the fifth player in club history to reach 40 homers in a season, joining Brady Anderson, Frank Robinson, Jim Gentile and Rafael Palmeiro. It took Davis 110 games to get to 40; Robinson had been the quickest previously, needing 125 games in 1966.

“Notice the first three you called by their first name and everybody knew who you were talking about. Maybe one day they'll say 'Chris' and we'll know who you're talking about,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It's one of those things you reflect back on when the season is over. ... He's got a lot of good baseball ahead of him.”

Davis' homer became the 72nd in stadium history to land on Eutaw Street behind the right-field flag court and the sixth this season. He's done it four times in his career but that was his first this year.

The Orioles' other homer almost wasn't. And it was hit by a guy who almost didn't start.

Second baseman Ryan Flaherty was in the starting lineup because Brian Roberts' wife was in labor and Roberts was placed on the paternity list.

“Someone said today around 4 [p.m.] that his wife is in the hospital,” Flaherty said. “So, yeah, [the start] kind of caught me surprise.”

Making just his third start since July 1, Flaherty hit a ball in the fourth against Seattle starter Aaron Harang (5-10) that just cleared the right-field scoreboard. It was initially ruled a double, but after a replay review by the umpires, the call was changed to a homer, Flaherty's seventh of the season.

Flaherty also had a double and a single, setting a career high with three hits — a fitting performance by an Orioles second baseman on the night Roberto Alomar was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame.

“It's nice for the offense to break out a little bit,” Flaherty said. “Usually when Tilly's pitching, you're not going to need that many. We had a good night offensively and it all worked out.”

The Orioles jumped on Harang early. Each of the first four batters he faced scored — three on a bases-loaded double by Adam Jones. It was Jones' 14th double against the team that traded him to the Orioles in 2008, the most he's had against any opponent that's not in the AL East.

Jones was credited with two RBIs and the third run scored on left fielder Raul Ibanez's error. Jones later scored on a Matt Wieters' sacrifice fly.

The offensive outburst allowed Tillman (14-3) to pick up his 10th victory in 11 decisions despite an uncharacteristically rough outing. Tillman entered the night 4-0 in four starts against his former team, allowing just three runs in 27 2/3 innings.

On Friday night, he gave up three runs in the third inning alone — which included two on one swing by Michael Saunders, who homered for the eighth time this year. The Orioles kept adding to the lead, and Tillman kept allowing the Mariners to stay close.

He was chased in the sixth, giving up six earned runs for just the second time this season.

“I missed early, got out of whack a little bit and struggled to get back in,” Tillman said. “[Making adjustments] is something I've been proud of doing, and it just wasn't there tonight. I couldn't get back in rhythm, couldn't get back in sync. I struggled with all my pitches.”

The Mariners made it close with two solo homers against reliever Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth, but Jim Johnson threw a scoreless ninth for his 38th save.

The game, though, was won once again by the Orioles' ability to homer.

“Everyone knows what our offense is capable of, and they put on a show tonight,” Tillman said. “They really picked this team up. It goes out to them tonight.”

dan.connolly@baltsun.com
twitter.com/danconnolly