St. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Strong starting pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.
Two games into the season, the Baltimore Orioles are clicking on all cylinders.
Chris Tillman held Tampa Bay hitless for six innings, Brian Roberts hit a three-run homer and Nick Markakis made a leaping catch at the wall in the ninth to preserve a 3-1 victory over the defending AL East champion Rays on Saturday night.
“As we all know, you win with pitching and defense, and that’s what we’ve gotten the first two days,” said Roberts, whose eighth-inning homer snapped a scoreless tie.
Tillman, making the 24th starter of his career, lost his bid for a no-hitter when manager Buck Showalter lifted him after 101 pitches. B.J. Upton lined a two-out single off Jeremy Accardo (1-0) for Tampa Bay’s first hit with two outs in the seventh.
The 22-year-old right-hander wasn’t surprised by removed from the game.
“No, I was real inefficient the first couple innings,” Tillman said. “Maybe a month down the road from now, I might still be in the game.”
Roberts drove in two runs with a triple on Friday night when Jeremy Guthrie pitched eight shutout innings in Baltimore’s 4-1 season-opening victory. His eighth-inning homer off Jake McGee came after Mark Reynolds singled and J.J. Hardy drew a one-out walk from Rays starter James Shields (0-1).
With two runners on base, Ben Zobrist hit a drive to right and Markakis, taking a running leap into the padded wall, made the game-ending catch.
“I’ve said over and over again, it’s a crime he hasn’t won a Gold Glove by this point,” Roberts said of Markakis. “To me, he’s the best right fielder in the game. If you didn’t believe before now, I hope you do now.”
Tillman walked three and struck out five in a start that was moved up a day after lefty Brian Matusz was scratched due to soreness on the left side of his mid-back. Matusz underwent an MRI exam Friday that found a strain in a muscle between the ribs and the back and is expected to be sidelined three to four weeks.
Accardo allowed two hits and escaped without allowing a run in the seventh when Felix Pie, who had entered the game as a pinch runner in the top half of the inning, made a perfect throw to the plate from left field to stop Upton from scoring on Kelly Shoppach’s sharp single to left field.
Tampa Bay’s Manny Ramirez singled off Koji Uehara to drive in a run charged to Michael Gonzalez in the eighth inning.
Kevin Gregg pitched the ninth for Baltimore and benefited from Markakis’ catch to earn his first save as an Oriole.
“I really thought Zo’s ball was over the wall when he hit it,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays finished with four hits after being limited to the same number the previous night. Maddon conceded that two runs in two games is not getting the job done, however he found no fault with his team’s effort.
“They’ve just outpitched us,” Maddon said. “It’s gone their way both nights, but at some point it’s going to go our way.”
Shields is coming off a season in which he lost a career-high 15 games, allowed an AL-leading 34 homers and led the majors by yielding 127 runs and 246 hits. He was winless over his final six outings of the season, going 0-4 after Aug. 29 and also lost his only start in the Rays’ loss to Texas in the opening round of the playoffs.
On Saturday, he showed why he made three consecutive opening day starts for Tampa Bay before David Price, a 19-game winner a year ago, drew this year’s assignment.
“Sometimes you can look good and you don’t come out with the win,” said Shields, who allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven. “I hung in there as long as I could … but Tillman was on his game.”
The Rays starter settled after giving up a single to Roberts on the first pitch of the game and walking the next batter, Markakis. He retired nine in a row before Derrek Lee singled for Baltimore’s second hit in the fourth. Vladimir Guerrero singled with one out in the seventh and Reynolds singled leading off the eighth for the other hits off Shields.
Over three stints with the Orioles in 2010, Tillman went 2-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 11 starts. He was 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay before Saturday, but the Rays had no answers for his this time.
The closest Tillman came to giving up a hit was Zobrist’s liner to right that Markakis made a nice running catch on in the third inning. He walked Evan Longoria with two outs in the first, Matt Joyce with two outs in the second and Zobrist with one out in the sixth.
The Rays didn’t get a runner past first until Upton singled and stole second in the seventh.
“I was so nervous and at the same time I felt comfortable,” Tillman said. “I settled down there the second and third and from then on out.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)