Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman barely survived a 38-pitch second inning Sunday afternoon, allowing a pair of two-run homers as an early lead disappeared, and he might not have made it out of the inning had manager Buck Showalter had more bullpen arms available.
And while Tillman's five-inning, four-run performance was by no means the prettiest of his bounce-back 2016 season, it might have been one of his grittiest. The Orioles' ace overcame that inning, retiring 11 of the final 12 batters he faced
The Orioles offense then did its part, posting a season-high 19 hits in an 11-6 comeback win over the Toronto Blue Jays before an announced 39,024 at Camden Yards.
"When you get these two offenses together, you know you're going to need to score with each other," catcher Matt Wieters said. "And Tillman really threw the ball great except for the second inning, I think. It was a hot one out there, so the ball was going pretty good. So he was able to get through that second and give us five strong."
With the win, the Orioles took two of three from the Blue Jays this weekend, claiming their ninth home series win in 12 overall this season. The Orioles (40-28) are now 26-12 at home, the second-best home record in the American League, and are 12-6 at home against AL East competition.
"Yeah, anytime you come out with a series win in the division, it's important," Tillman said. "Every game counts just as much as the next, but in the division, it's big, especially this past month. We've had a tough schedule the past month. We still have a tough schedule coming up. It's a big series win."
Wieters drove in four runs, had four hits and was a triple shy of the cycle. He hit a two-run homer off Toronto starter Marcus Stroman (6-3) in the first inning to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead, and later doubled and added an RBI single.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop recorded three hits in his second straight game, driving in three runs Sunday, including a mammoth two-run blast in the seventh inning off Toronto reliever Jesse Chavez that went an estimated 458 feet and landed above the concourse walkway in left field. Schoop's RBI single in the fourth gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead.
"This division's got really good offense," Schoop said. "They got really good offense, and we've got really good offense. We can score a lot of runs in one inning, and they can do it, too. This division's got really good offense, but today, we had a big offensive game and we came out on top."
Despite recording a quality start against the Blue Jays in his last meeting with Toronto — he allowed two earned runs over six innings April 21 — Tillman has struggled against them over his career. And he was close to being chased from the game early Sunday after he allowed two-run homers to Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis in the second inning.
But Tillman (10-1) allowed just one hit after that — a leadoff double in the fifth by Travis, whom he stranded on third — as he won his ninth straight decision.
"I finished up good," Tillman said. "It was a little struggle early on. I think fastball command was a little off, but we finished up well. Made some pitches when we needed to, and like I said, the boys picked me up, picked me up big time today. Tough day on the bullpen, but we came out of everything with a big series win."
Tillman, who was pulled for right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne after finishing five innings at 99 pitches, said he could have gone deeper, but Showalter didn't want to push Tillman any further.
"It's a challenge against them," Showalter said. "It's a hot, offensive-friendly day, and he had that one inning that got his pitch count up. He's coming off 119 pitches last time. I didn't want to push him. He wasn't real happy with the old manager. He said he felt great, and I said, 'We want to keep you that way.' Despaigne gave us some needed innings, and Brad [Brach] did the good job he's been doing all year."
Orioles beat up on Stroman: Stroman lasted just 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing in 15 starts this season. For just the third time this season, Stroman allowed seven runs and double-digit hits (10). The Orioles jumped on Stroman early, with three runs in the first inning, equaling the number he allowed in the opening frame in his previous 14 starts combined.
Flaherty fills in nicely: No. 9 hitter Ryan Flaherty, starting at third base while Manny Machado served the first game of a four-game suspension, drove in two runs, including an RBI double that gave the Orioles a 6-4 lead and helped chase Stroman. "Flash is really important for this team," Schoop said. "Flash slides in everywhere if you want him, and he can do [a] really good job with everything. Without Manny, Flash stepped in, and he was really good."
Saunders robs Hardy: As if the Orioles hadn't seen enough of Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders, who hit three homers in Friday's series opener, he also robbed shortstop J.J. Hardy of a home run in the eighth inning. Hardy, playing in his second game back from the disabled list, launched a blast to left field off Chavez, but Saunders measured the ball perfectly and made a leaping catch at the wall to bring the ball back into the park.