Showalter speaks after 9-1 win

The Orioles are a 90-win team with a magic number of three to clinch a playoff berth. And they have five more games to play in the regular season.

Yep, we all saw it coming back in March.

The Orioles have scored 21 runs in their last two games and have recorded double-digit hits in nine of their last 12 games, going 9-3 in that stretch.

Also, the Orioles have a plus-7 run differential, the first time they've been off the negative side since June 24.

The Orioles are 69-21 when their starter goes six or more innings. Chris Tillman gave them eight innings tonight and finished with his fourth quality start in his last five outings. The only exception was the game in New York on Sept. 2 when he left after three innings with elbow discomfort.

"He was good, really good," said manager Buck Showalter after tonight's 9-1 victory. "It was one of those games we were confident he could finish, but what's best for him is best for us. He had a good four-pitch mix going and stayed in the strike zone.

"I think Chris would be the last guy to use 'dominant.' Just give your team a chance to win. This is a guy that is not afraid of the competition. It may not always work out statistically on a given night, but he'll come out firing bullets.

"He's had some good outings. He's one win away from winning 10 games, but we hopefully have bigger fish to fry. He keeps putting himself in a position to be worthy of getting the ball. I don't think he takes anything for granted."

Is Tillman more confident this season?

"He's always had respect for the competition," Showalter said. "He's not been braggadocious. It's been, 'I can do this.' He has that healthy respect for it, but not the part when he's scared. He had some things he had to finish off. He'd be the first tell you it's always a work in progress. I think he has a real mature look at what's real and what's not about how this comes and goes. He wants to get the points where he shortens his valleys and extends his peaks."

A positive sign tonight was how Tillman didn't let up with a big early lead.

"It's a good indication of his maturity level that it didn't matter," Showalter said. "The shutdown inning after the six-spot. That's what you look for. He's pitching not to the scoreboard."

Ryan Flaherty had a career night - and yes, it's been a short career - with a grand slam and five RBIs.

"You look at his background and the whole process, he and they did a great job with him during his stint at Norfolk to get well," Showalter said. "I think he made good use of that time and has come back. R.J. (Ron Johnson), when we were talking to him, said he was in a real good place and it was a good time to take him. The challenge was getting him the at-bats to take advantage of that.

"I thought one of the keys to that whole inning, the bottom of the first, was DeMarlo Hale. I can't tell you how many third base coaches send a guy with two outs in that situation. And regardless of whether or not the next guy gets a base hit or hits a home run, we live in such a result-oriented sports world, it's a tough call for the third base coach because you're kind of taught with two outs to roll the dice."

One more note: Showalter said the Orioles would like Jason Hammel to go four to six innings in his simulated game Monday or Tuesday in Sarasota. Hammel threw three innings today in the bullpen. He remains a possibility for the postseason.

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