Even when a pair of top starters in the American League East match up, the idea of a pitcher's duel in a division game seems far-fetched.
Yet there were Chris Tillman and David Price, matching zeros and setting up for late-inning drama in the Orioles' 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox before 38,009 at Fenway Park — the largest crowd in Boston in nearly a year.
"You had two good pitchers on top of their game," manager Buck Showalter said. "Both of them were real good. You know pitchers are good when you know what they're going to try to do and they do it anyway."
Staked to a 3-1 lead thanks to home runs by shortstop Manny Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop plus seven sterling innings from Tillman, the Orioles' bullpen again made things interesting.
Mychal Givens allowed an eighth-inning double and a walk before manager Buck Showalter called on closer Zach Britton to face slugger David Ortiz.
Ortiz struck out, and a run scored on a single by first baseman Hanley Ramirez, but Britton earned his 20th save in as many chances. Tillman improved to 9-1 with a 2.87 ERA on the season.
"That was one of those outings where you don't make decisions just by pitch count," Showalter said. "You could tell that he was carrying his stuff, never really started to do anything different. That was one of those games where pitch count didn't play a lot into it. They kind of dictate that. But he didn't feel good first couple innings. I didn't know that until afterward. He's like a lot of good pitchers. You better get him early."
It's a shortstop thing
On the Orioles' last visit here to Fenway Park, shortstop J.J. Hardy curled two home runs around the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park, known as Pesky's Pole. They have been his only home runs of the season, and in the team's return to Boston, the person who took over at shortstop for him at shortstop followed suit.
Machado's 17th home run of the season in the first inning sneaked around the pole, scoring right fielder Joey Rickard and giving the Orioles an early 2-0 lead.
"We were fortunate," Showalter said. "That pole's been pretty kind to us so far this year, so we'll take it."
Tillman and Price settled into impressive streaks in the middle of game. Between a one-out double by second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the third inning and a one-out home run by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the seventh inning, Tillman retired a dozen straight Red Sox.
Price outdid him on that front. After Machado homered with one out in the first inning, Price retired 19 in a row before an infield single by right fielder Mark Trumbo ended that streak.
Both had days they can be proud of. Tillman worked around some early trouble and allowed just one run, striking out seven while allowing five hits and walking two. Price scattered five hits in eight innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks.
"You know it's going to be a tough one today," Tillman said. "A guy like that, you want to keep runs to a minimum. You knew it was going to be a close, tough game. It ended up being just that."
Schoop does damage
When Schoop homered to lead off the eighth inning, the ball cleared everything, sailing over the Green Monster in left field and onto Lansdowne Street — or farther. His 10th home run of the season gave the Orioles a needed cushion.