By JON PALMIERI
(AP) — The Baltimore Orioles may lack a marquee name at the top of their rotation, but Chris Tillman has developed into one of baseball’s most consistent starters.
His current run is among the best in franchise history.
Tillman looks to keep his perfect road record intact and help the Orioles move another step closer to an AL East title Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Despite not having any Cy Young Award candidates or even an All-Star pitcher, Baltimore’s 3.73 ERA from its rotation ranks sixth in the AL. The Orioles (84-59) have three starters with at least 11 wins, with Tillman ranking third behind Wei-Yin Chen (14) and Bud Norris (12).
However, there’s little question who’s been the team’s most reliable starter, especially lately. Tillman (11-5, 3.40 ERA) has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 17 consecutive starts, the fifth-longest streak in club history but still well short of the franchise record set by Dave McNally in 1968.
The right-hander is 6-3 with a 2.26 ERA during those 17 games, recording 14 quality starts and holding opponents to a .211 average.
He’s 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his past seven outings overall and 7-0 in 14 road starts this season despite a 4.34 ERA. Tillman allowed three runs over six innings before leaving without a decision in a 9-7 home victory against Cincinnati on Thursday.
His 17-start streak began versus Boston on June 10, when he gave up one run in six innings in a 1-0 loss. Tillman is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA in three starts this season against the Red Sox, winning at Fenway on April 18.
David Ortiz (2 for 21), Will Middlebrooks (0 for 16) and Xander Bogaerts (0 for 9) have all struggled against Tillman, but Brock Holt is 3 for 5.
Baltimore pushed its lead in the East to 10 games – its largest since September 1979 – with a 4-0 series-opening victory Monday and reduced its magic number for the team’s first division title since 1997 to 11.
“It’s just a step,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Every night you get to take a step toward your goal.”
Miguel Gonzalez and four relievers combined on a seven-hitter to help the Orioles win for the ninth time in 12 games.
“It’s been incredible,” Gonzalez said. “I think our defense and offense have been there the whole year. We’re in a good spot.”
Nelson Cruz followed his two-homer, seven-RBIs performance Sunday at Tampa Bay with a pair of hits and two runs. He’s 19 for 52 (.365) with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 14 games this season against the Red Sox.
Boston (63-81) was limited to six singles and a double in its 10th loss in 12 home games. The Red Sox are batting .156 with runners in scoring position during that span.
“We didn’t come up with any big hits, especially late,” catcher David Ross said. “We had the guy on the ropes and couldn’t come up with any.”
They’ll try to avoid a third straight loss overall behind Anthony Ranaudo (3-1, 4.63), who comes off his first major league loss.
The rookie right-hander permitted three runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-1 loss at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. He failed to complete six innings for the first time in four starts.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy was sent back to Baltimore to have an MRI on his ailing back and is not expected to play in this series.
Updated September 9, 2014
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