After the Orioles' 7-2 victory Saturday night over the Boston Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter was preparing himself for a postgame discussion with Adam Jones, whom he was considering sitting for Sunday's regular-season home finale.
It would be a short turnaround for an afternoon game, but these kind of discussions are delicate for Showalter. Jones, the club's All-Star center fielder, wants to play every day, and usually does, ignoring the nagging bumps and bruises of a long season. But with the American League East won, Showalter wants to ensure his best players are rested for the postseason.
It's easy to see why. After two days of not playing, including Thursday's day off, Jones had a pair of two-run homers Saturday before an announced 43,015 at Camden Yards.
"I know Adam might have conflicts about" Sunday's game, Showalter said. "I told him I'd talk when I got back [from the news conference]. I understand what the three days are, but the good thing about this is it's not our last game here. Fans will get to see him again, too."
Rookie Christian Walker, in his third big league game, added his first major league homer to give the Orioles three for the night and increase their majors-leading home-run total to 202, the first time in club history the Orioles have had three consecutive 200-homer seasons.
Right-hander Chris Tillman overcame a rocky start to go seven innings in a resilient effort, reaching the 200-inning mark for the second straight season.
"Two hundred innings is quite a milestone, getting that tonight," Showalter said. "Two years in a row. The difference with Chris is, some people can somehow get to 200 innings just by pitching every fifth day. I don't think that's what drives Chris, compared to some other guys who might have 200 innings. What drives him is being able to contribute to our club and be the winning pitcher. Pretty solid tonight, after the first inning."
Since clinching the division Tuesday, the Orioles (93-61) have won two of their three games. They entered the night trailing the Los Angeles Angels by two games for the American League's top record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"We still have games to play," Jones said. "We still have something to prove. We're trying to catch Anaheim for the best record overall. Guys understand that. Just because the normal stars aren't playing doesn't mean that the guys that are playing can't easily fill in the role. That's what the guys are doing. It's a collective team."
Jones recorded his sixth career multihomer game, and third this season, after having hit just one home run in his past 26 games. He now has 27 total this season.
The Orioles improved their record to 25-0 in games in which they have hit three or more homers. Since July 19, they have won 33 of 34 games in which they've scored four or more runs.
The Orioles also now have won six of their past seven meetings, and 11 of 18 overall, with the Red Sox this season. On Saturday, they avoided losing consecutive home games for the first time since June 28-29.
With eight games left, including Sunday's regular-season home finale, the Orioles (93-61) tied their 2012 total for the most wins in club history since 1997.
Just three batters into a 25-pitch first inning, Tillman and the Orioles trailed 2-0. But over his final six frames, he held Boston (67-88) scoreless.
"It's important," Tillman said. "Anytime I get in a little bit of a funk, it's important for me to speed myself up and get back in sync, and [catcher Nick Hundley] did a great job with it. It comes down to pitch calling, too, and he did a great job of calling the right pitches to get me back in sync."
Tillman (13-5) allowed three runs or fewer for the 20th straight game, tying Steve Barber (1965-66) for the second-longest such streak in club history.
In the first inning, Tillman allowed a two-run homer to David Ortiz, the slugger's third home run of the series, after a leadoff walk to Mookie Betts.
Four of the first five batters Tillman faced reach base, but he escaped the inning by striking out Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. Tillman allowed just two hits — back-to-back singles by Will Middlebrooks and Christian Vazquez in the fourth — after the first inning, retiring the final 10 batters he faced.
"He's matured and he wants to be the ace of the staff," Jones said of Tillman. "He's doing things that aces do. It's up to him to have to want it. … Two hundred innings in today's game is the [standard]. It means he's going out there and averaging at least a little over six innings per start. That will get the job done."
Tillman shrugged off the milestone.
"It's not the numbers, it's not the personal goal," Tillman said. "It's the team goal. Two hundred's important because it means you're out there and competing for your team, and you're giving your chance a team to win. It kind of falls under the obvious, but it's important to get deep in games and give your team a chance to win."
Castillo's one-out single in the ninth off reliever Tommy Hunter was the Red Sox's lone hit after Vazquez's single in the fourth.
Jones tied the game in the third inning, taking a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball from Boston right-hander Rubby De La Rosa (4-8) into the center-field bleachers.
Walker, who connected with a 1-2 slider to open the fourth, found out he would start Saturday in the middle of batting practice. First baseman Steve Pearce (sore right wrist) had been scratched from the lineup as a precaution, giving Walker his third consecutive start.
"It's exciting. It's really exciting," Walker said of hitting his first homer. "I wasn't originally in the lineup but got an opportunity to get in there and maybe earn some more at-bats, and luckily, it worked out in my favor."
After Walker's home run, third baseman Ryan Flaherty followed with a double to right, then moved to third on Hundley's groundout to second.
Flaherty then scored on a suicide-squeeze play, breaking for home as second baseman Jonathan Schoop pushed a bunt to the right side of the mound. De La Rosa scooped up the ball and tagged Schoop, but Flaherty scored easily.
Jones hit his second homer of the night in the fifth, tagging a 1-1 slider from reliever Heath Hembree and driving it into the left-field seats.
The Orioles tacked on a run in the seventh when right fielder Nelson Cruz slapped a line drive to right field with runners at first and second. The ball shot over Bradley's head and to the wall, and when he slipped chasing it, left fielder Alejandro De Aza scored from second.