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Orioles use small ball to get key win over the Yankees in series opener

Baltimore OriolesBaseballNew York YankeesNick MarkakisChris TillmanAlex Rodriguez

Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s fiery charge out of his dugout following the first inning Monday night -- as he tried to push through two umpires to get at Yankees manager Joe Girardi -- undoubtedly added some fuel to this week’s pivotal four-game series.

Both teams are playing for their playoff lives this week, but Showalter made it clear his team wasn’t going to be bullied on the field or off during the Orioles’ 4-2 victory over the Yankees in front of an announced 17,456 at Camden Yards.  

In the bottom of the first inning, Girardi began yelling at Orioles third base coach Bobby Dickerson from the Yankees dugout. “I know what you’re doing,” Dickerson said Girardi kept yelling, assuming Girardi was accusing the Orioles of stealing signs.

Dickerson said Girardi’s yelling continued through the entire half-inning, and once the inning ended, Showalter sprinted out of the dugout yelling at Girardi.  

“Somebody’s wearing black and orange,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to let that happen.”

With 19 games left in the regular season – and the remaining three head-to-head contests between the Orioles and New York critical in each team’s postseason push – there is already no love lost between the clubs. But a confrontation between the teams’ managers has to raise the intensity level.

 “I didn't think it was going to start this early,” Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said with a slight smirk.  “You've got two teams battling for the same thing, it's just like any little thing's going to set it off. You've got two competitive teams out there and things are going to happen. But it was a big win tonight, it was on our side, so everything worked out good.”

With the win, the Orioles’ six in seven games against the Yankees at Camden Yards this season, the Orioles pulled within 1 ½ games of the second American League wild-card spot and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in the playoff chase.

The Orioles (77-66), whose offense has relied on their majors leading 193 home runs, beat the Yankees with small ball, recording multiple sacrifice flies in the same game for just the fifth time this season.

And Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (16-5) tied his career high with nine strikeouts and held the Yankees (76-68) to a pair of solo homers over seven plus innings of work. Tillman retired 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced in becoming the first Orioles pitcher to record 16 wins in a season since Mike Mussina won 18 in 1999.

“His changeup was outstanding tonight,” Girardi said of Tillman. “He also has a good curveball, but I thought his changeup was the equalizer tonight and moving his fastball up and down as much as in and out.”

After the game, Girardi wouldn’t say that he believed the Orioles were stealing signs, only saying: “I’m going to protect our players at all lengths. That’s what I’m going to do, and there was something that I saw and I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Dickerson, a former Yankees farmhand who played in the minors under Showalter in the Yankees minor league system, said he was initially confused by Girardi’s yelling.

“I’m a grown man, that’s all,” Dickerson said. “I don’t see why he was yelling at me. I just said, ‘You don’t know anything. You don’t even know me to be yelling at me.’ … I’m just trying to do my job over there and nobody’s going to yell at me for nothing. I’m a grown man and he’d going to challenge me. That’s the way I took it.”

After Markakis scored the Orioles’ first run on Adam Jones’ sacrifice fly, he told Showalter that Girardi was yelling at Dickerson. And once the inning ended, Showalter charged toward the Yankees dugout. Players and coaches from both teams spilled onto the field. Showalter had to be held back by umpires Ed Hickox and Jim Joyce. When order was restored, both teams were warned.

“Obviously, we’re not [stealing signs],” Showalter said. “In our mind, it’s not happening. … But when I come off the bench every night I look at that same thing. … It was something in our dugout our guys were wondering what in the world it was all about because obviously [sign stealing] wasn’t happening.”

“Bobby's not giving pitches,” Showalter said.

Between the lines, the Orioles -- who entered the night hitting .081 (3-for-37) with runners in scoring position over the first four games of the homestand – beat the Yankees with station-to-station baseball against Yankees starter CC Sabathia (13-12). They recorded multiple sacrifice flies in a game for just the fifth time this season.

Trailing 1-0, Markakis -- who paced the Orioles offense from the lead-off spot with three hits on the night -- led the bottom of the first inning off with a ground-rule double that one-hopped the right-center field fence. Manny Machado’s sacrifice bunt then moved the runner to third and Markakis scored on Adam Jones' sacrifice fly to center field.

The Orioles added two more runs in the fifth inning. J.J. Hardy led off the inning with a double down the left-field line and then sped to third on a grounder off the bat of Michael Morse. Matt Wieters then plated Hardy with a sacrifice fly to center field. A two-out single by Markakis later that inning scored Alexi Casilla, who improved to 17-for-33 against the Yankees left-hander in his career, with a single and stolen base.

Machado recorded his majors-leading 49th double in the seventh, a two-out hit that scored Wieters from third base to give the Orioles a three-run cushion.

Sabathia (13-12) lasted 7 1/3 innings, but allowed all four Orioles runs on seven hits, striking out six and walking two. In his past two starts against Baltimore, he’s allowed nine combined runs.

Tillman, who settled after allowed a solo homer to Alex Rodriguez two batters into the game, retired 14 straight after allowing a one-out single to Brett Gardner in the third inning. He lasted one batter into the eighth, but was pulled after Lyle Overbay led off the inning with a solo homer to right.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter struck out the side on 11 pitches to end the inning. Jim Johnson recorded his AL-leading 43rd save with a scoreless ninth, despite allowing a lead-off single to Rodriguez. With one man on and two out with the tying run at the plate, Curtis Granderson flew out to the warning track in center field to end the game.

After the game, Showalter scoffed at the idea that his display sparked his team Monday night.

“I hope not,” Showalter said. “If we need that at this point, no. I think what fires you up is Tillman pitching as well as he did. And having a good outing against a really good pitcher in Sabathia who pitched real well too. … Two competitive good teams and we're fighting for the same thing, so there's a small margin for error.”

eencina@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Baltimore OriolesBaseballNew York YankeesNick MarkakisChris TillmanAlex Rodriguez
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