Step-by-step, the Baltimore Orioles are closing in on their first playoff berth since 1997. They'll continue the quest Saturday in the second contest of a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.
Baltimore's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three, but the Orioles have aspirations of a division title as well. They enter Saturday a game behind the New York Yankees in the American League East standings.
The Orioles will try to build on a solid pitching performance from last night when Steve Johnson makes his 12th appearance, including his fourth start, of his initial season in the majors. In his three home starts, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .200 against him at home.
Last night, Ryan Flaherty hit a grand slam and Chris Tillman tossed eight dominant innings, as the Orioles won, 9-1.
Tillman (9-2) gave up just one unearned run on one hit while striking out four and walking two. Flaherty also had an RBI double for Baltimore, which holds the top wild card spot in the AL. Chris Davis added a two-run homer.
"It feels good, and I am glad I could help my team win," Flaherty said. "Whatever that is, defense, offense and tonight it was with the bat. So it was good."
Dustin Pedroia knocked in the lone run for the Red Sox, who have lost three in a row and seven of eight.
Boston starter Aaron Cook (4-11) lasted just one-plus innings, allowing six runs on five hits while walking three. Alfredo Aceves gave up three runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings of relief.
Felix Doubront, who has just one victory in his last 10 starts, gets the assignment tonight for the Red Sox. The left-hander is coming off a no- decision against the Orioles on Sunday. In that game, he had 11 strikeouts in 11 innings. Doubront is 0-1 in five games (2 starts) versus Baltimore.
Baltimore took two of three from the Red Sox last weekend and is 11-5 against them this season.