DETROIT — Home runs from sources expected and unexpected helped the Orioles to a big September series win Sunday, with new reserve outfielder Michael Bourn and second baseman Jonathan Schoop providing all the required scoring in a 3-1 win over the Detroit Tigers before an announced 33,069 at Comerica Park.
Bourn, who had just three home runs this season before an Aug. 31 trade brought him to the Orioles from the Arizona Diamondbacks, gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the third inning with his second home run in as many starts since the trade.
One inning later, Schoop, who has a team-high eight home runs on Sundays and is batting .356 in day games, added his 23rd of the year.
"We were able to get two runs with that home run, and then Schoop added another one on," Bourn said. "Chris [Tillman] was amazing out there, and the bullpen came down and shut it down. It was a game that you look for. I know it was a pretty big hit in that situation, but I was just trying to battle against a tough pitcher and make the most out of it."
Both home runs came off Tigers ace Justin Verlander (14-8), who made it through just five innings against the Orioles.
"It's just that they didn't score many runs," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "The guy gave up three runs. He pitched well. Our guys really made him earn everything."
Verlander's counterpart, the returning Tillman, was wobbly in the first inning after three weeks of inactivity following a shoulder issue, and battled to find his control before settling in for a sparkling return.
Tillman (16-5) allowed a run on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts over six innings, lowering his ERA to 3.68 this season. The win moves the Orioles (78-64) two games clear of Detroit (76-66) in the American League wild-card race.
"It was awesome," Tillman said. "There's nothing like it. You get kind of bored and frustrated sitting on the bench that long and not being able to help the team. It was a big series, a big win, and it's good to get out of here with the series win."
Bullpen shake-up: The order was different, but the result was the same. Brad Brach, Mychal Givens and Zach Britton combined for three scoreless innings behind Tillman, combining to strand four base runners to close out the victory.
Givens hit the first batter he faced before Schoop chased down a blooper for a basket catch in short right field. After a one-out walk, Givens got Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera to ground into a double play. Cabrera did not have a hit in the series.
Britton worked around a walk and a single for a scoreless ninth inning for his 41st save in 41 tries this season.
"That was really good," Britton said. "It all starts with Tilly doing a great job coming back. It's a tough lineup for your first one back, and he did a great job. It starts there. He allowed us to come in when the matchups were in our favor. Givens and Brad did a great job. It always starts with the pitching, and keeping their lineup in check, which is tough to do. That was the key to the last two wins that we got here."
Machado has mixed day: Third baseman Manny Machado started the Orioles' day offensively with a towering two-out triple in the first inning, and finished it with a pair of hits, but Verlander got the better of him in a big moment in the third inning.
With Machado on second base, Chris Davis on first and Mark Trumbo facing a full count with two outs, Verlander turned around and picked off Machado.
Jones does it all: It's hard to quantify what Adam Jones means defensively for the Orioles, but he made two massive plays in the third inning. He was playing in and shaded toward right field before his diving, rolling catch on a blooper by shortstop Jose Iglesias, and two batters later sprinted to the warning track to snare a line drive by center fielder Cameron Maybin.
"That's a lot of room to cover there, and Adam had a great series defensively and probably was a difference in Tilly getting his feet on the ground early on in the early innings there," Showalter said. "He ran down some balls that obviously are home runs in a lot of parks."
Let's just be friends: Tempers were heated early in the game, with Trumbo and Cabrera taking exception to each other. Trumbo grounded out to shortstop, but the throw carried Cabrera back on top of the first base bag. Trumbo had to avoid him while running out the play, and the two had words. Verlander and Tigers catcher James McCann joined the conversation before the situation defused.