Tillman goes seven and Valencia homers as O’s take road trip opener

Chris Tillman pitched a very solid seven innings, Danny Valencia homered and Nate McLouth manufactured a run on the bases as the Orioles beat Houston, 4-1, tonight to start a three-game series and six-game road trip.

The win was the Orioles’ fifth in six games and 10th in the last 14. They also snapped Houston’s six-game win streak. The Orioles are 18-12 on the road and 33-25 overall.

At eight games over .500, the Orioles tie a season high.

Tillman gave up a single in the first to leadoff hitter Brandon Barnes but didn’t give up another hit until Barnes hit a solo homer off him in the last of the sixth.

On the night, Tillman went seven innings, allowing four hits and just the one run. He walked two and fanned a season-high eight batters. That strikeout total tied his career high.

tillam-pitching-grey-sidebar.jpgTillman, who is now 5-2 with an ERA of 3.97, threw 113 pitches, one off his season high and 73 for strikes.

This was the seventh time this year an O’s starter went seven innings or more, and Tillman has now done that a staff-leading three times.

Tillman is unbeaten on the road this year, going 4-0 with a 2.30 ERA in five starts.

This was a nice reversal for Tillman. In his previous two starts - after a run of six straight quality starts - he had pitched 9 2/3 innings, allowing 18 hits and nine runs with six homers allowed. Tillman had given up 11 homers over his last five starts before tonight.

Tommy Hunter pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and Jim Johnson fanned two in a scoreless ninth, recording his 19th save.

The O’s took a 2-0 lead in the third. Valencia hit an opposite-field homer to right. It’s his third of the season and third over his last seven games and 17 at-bats. Later in the inning, Manny Machado picked up his big league leading 26th double and then scored on an error.

The Orioles picked up big insurance runs in the eighth and ninth. McLouth singled and then stole second and third in the eighth and came home on a throwing error by catcher Jason Castro. McLouth is 21-for-22 in steals this season. In the ninth, J.J. Hardy doubled with two outs and scored on a Ryan Flaherty single.

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