For just over an hour Wednesday night, the Orioles had nothing going against Kansas City Royals starter Edinson Volquez.
Within another half-inning, though, Volquez was gone, and the Orioles had a commanding lead — and it didn't even require a home run. A four-run fifth inning helped the Orioles secure a 4-0 win and a series sweep of the Royals at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (35-23) moved a season-high 12 games over .500 after holding the defending World Series champs to two runs over the past three games.
With the Orioles' key sluggers neutralized for most of the evening, the bottom of the lineup scratched together enough for a rally in the fifth and rode a brilliant pitching performance by Chris Tillman (8-1).
Matt Wieters grounded out to lead off the fifth inning on just the 52nd pitch from Volquez. To that point, the Orioles had struck out five times and managed only a Nolan Reimold double. But Jonathan Schoop battled back from down 0-2 in the count and worked a seven-pitch walk to start the rally. Pedro Alvarez singled, and Reimold walked to load the bases.
Finally, Ryan Flaherty lined a two-run double off the right-field wall to give the Orioles a lead they wouldn't surrender.
"It's nice to contribute," Flaherty said. "I think the lineup, it seems like it's the same guys every night — [Mark] Trumbo, Wieters, [Chris] Davis, [Manny] Machado, [Adam] Jones. It's nice to change it up and have some other guys pitch in."
Jones' sacrifice fly and Hyun Soo Kim's RBI single provided the other two runs and chased Volquez after just 4 2/3 innings.
Tillman preserved the shutout until the eighth, and Brad Brach came in with two on and one out. He walked Eric Hosmer to load the bases, but induced a long flyout from Salvador Perez to end the inning. Brach then struck out the last two batters of a scoreless ninth to secure his second save of the year.
"It's awesome," Brach said. "Your adrenaline gets going, and the most exciting part of the game is the final out. So being out there, especially in a tight situation like that, it's great."
Tillman pitches gem: Tillman pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings, turning in the Orioles' longest start since May 7. He tied a career high with nine strikeouts, including a few with his fastball that ran up in the zone, and didn't walk a batter.
Tillman started rolling with a six-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning. He scattered eight hits, never allowing a runner to reach third base. In the fifth and sixth innings, he struck out five of the six hitters he faced.
"I think fastball command from the get-go was pretty spot on," Tillman said. "I felt pretty good in the bullpen coming in, and I was able to carry it over."
His final punchout came against Cheslor Cuthbert, stranding runners at first and second to end the Royals' seventh. Tillman then allowed singles to two of the first three batters in the eighth, giving way to Brach as an announced crowd of 19,178 gave him a standing ovation.
Defense helps out: The only real spot of trouble Tillman encountered came in the third, when Cuthbert hit a leadoff double. Two pitches later, though, Jarrod Dyson popped up a bunt toward third, and Flaherty snared it, turned and fired it to second to double off Cuthbert.
Because of the double play, Alcides Escobar's ensuing single caused no damage. The Royals didn't put another man in scoring position until the seventh.
Power outage: While Davis had the night off, the rest of the Orioles' big bats went silent. Machado struck out looking on an outside curveball to end the first, and Trumbo whiffed on a changeup in the dirt to lead off the second. Alvarez began the Orioles' half of the third by swinging over another changeup that fell off the table. Machado and Trumbo finished with four more strikeouts in total, going combined 0-for-8 with six strikeouts.
Reimold stumps Royals: Even with Volquez rolling through the first half of the game, the Royals couldn't manage to get Reimold out. His third-inning double was the Orioles' only hit until the fifth. He laid off a changeup in the dirt to keep the rally going with a walk. And then he walked again to lead off the seventh. He finished 1-for-1 with two walks.