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OAK@BAL: Tillman strikes out nine against the A's

BALTIMORE -- Just how dominant was Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who held Oakland to one run in eight innings on Saturday afternoon?

"[He was] as good as [Jarrod] Parker, and that's pretty good," manager Buck Showalter said of the A's starter, who baffled Baltimore over his eight innings. "Got to see two guys at the top of their game. August-September baseball. That was pretty impressive to watch. Both of them were as advertised."

And neither factored into the game's outcome.

The Orioles squandered one of the finest pitching performances of the year, with A's designated hitter Coco Crisp's ninth-inning homer off reliever Darren O'Day erasing Tillman's phenomenal effort and handing Baltimore a 2-1 loss on Saturday afternoon.

The series-evening defeat, in front of 33,834 at Camden Yards, is just the Orioles' second loss in six games against Oakland (72-56) this season and drops them three games behind the A's for the second AL Wild Card spot.

"It's time to go," O'Day said of the Orioles' push for October. "Personally, it's very disappointing for me. I know the others guys are disappointed, too. You want win every game, but especially against teams we're fighting with."

On after Tillman's gem, O'Day watched Crisp send his 3-1 offering over the scoreboard in right field for a leadoff blast. Crisp, who thought he walked on the previous pitch, has homered in three straight games, and his go-ahead knock brought on closer Grant Balfour to retire the O's in order in the ninth.

"Obviously, on paper, that's not the thing I'll dwell on. Darren came back and got some outs for us," Showalter said of the home run. "Balfour had five days rest, you could tell he was real strong today. So, whatever small opportunities we had, we had to take advantage of them against Parker. [He's] athletic, strike-throwing, established his fastball early, then started slowing some guys down here and there. He was impressive. Look at his career, he's always been a guy that doesn't give up many hits."

Tillman held the A's to even fewer hits than Parker (three, to Parker's five), turning in his third quality start during a four-start winless stretch in which he's been denied victory No. 15.

"Not worried about that," Tillman said of getting another no-decision. "I'm more frustrated that today's a loss."

"We count on him every fifth day to go out there and give us the performances that he's been [giving]," center fielder Adam Jones said of Tillman's 115-pitch effort, which tied a career high with nine strikeouts. "Nothing but praises for him right now, he's been throwing the ball lights out. I told him after the game, I said 'It [stinks] we couldn't get you two runs.' But that's how good Parker was throwing."

Tied at 1, the Orioles stranded their second leadoff man in three innings in the eighth, as Parker held Baltimore hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position. The inning started when Nate McLouth punched a ball into right field and Manny Machado moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Parker intentionally walked Chris Davis, Jones' groundout -- which narrowly avoided a double play -- put runners on the corners for catcher Matt Wieters. But Wieters grounded out to end the threat and saddle Tillman with a no-decision.

"He had his good stuff," said Parker, who hasn't lost in 16 starts, of Tillman. "He makes you pitch better, because the tempo of the game was flowing and you're up and down in the dugout. There is no real time to sit there and get stiff or think about anything."

At 103 pitches to start the eighth, Tillman struck out Chris Young and Eric Sogard to give him four consecutive punchouts, with the Sogard strikeout tying his career high. Tillman then got Kurt Suzuki to fly out on a 94-mph fastball, his final pitch of the afternoon, that was met with a standing ovation from the spirited home crowd.

"He does that a lot," Showalter said of Tillman getting better as the game goes on. "One of the differences with him is he may get behind 2-0, 3-1, 3-0, and next thing you know he comes right back and he's got back his sink. And we're not having to make those constant mound visits. I'm real proud of him."

Tillman allowed one hit and a pair of walks -- both of which were erased by double-play balls -- as he breezed through the first five innings on 69 pitches. After striking out Sogard to start the sixth, Suzuki gave up Oakland's first extra-base hit with a double down the left-field line, and he scored on Jed Lowrie's two-out double to tie it at 1.

The Orioles got on the board first, with Ryan Flaherty driving Parker's 93-mph two-seamer for a solo home run -- the first hit for either side -- with one out in the third. Flaherty's knock, his eighth of the year, sailed high over the right-field wall. McLouth legged out a two-out infield single, but that was all Parker would allow.

"In the playoff race, it's important, every game is important," Tillman said. "A loss always stinks. They're never fun. What we're looking forward to is tomorrow and getting the series win."

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