NEW YORK -- Late Wednesday night, Adam Jones stood in the Orioles' clubhouse next to two uninhabited lockers -- one belonging to Manny Machado (virus) and one belonging to Hyun Soo Kim (strained right hamstring, 15-day DL). Despite having back spasms, Jones ensured he'd play the following day.
"I got nothing else to do," Jones joked after the Orioles' third straight loss of the series.
Yet when Baltimore took the Yankee Stadium field Thursday afternoon for the series finale against the Yankees, Jones wasn't manning his usual spot in center field. Even he wasn't immune. It didn't seem to matter, as Baltimore snapped a four-game skid with a 4-1 win, thanks in part to seven brilliant innings from ace Chris Tillman.
"We needed to go out and get a win today," Tillman said. "Didn't want to lose four in a row [to the Yankees]."
Tillman's now pitched at least seven innings and allowed just one earned run in each of his past four starts, but he shrugged when presented the idea of being a stopper.
Caleb Joseph, who caught Tillman (14-2) for the first time of the season, thought otherwise.
"He is the ace of the staff," Joseph said. "In the same way that guys that produce with RBIs always find a way to get 'em in at second in clutch situations."
The Orioles began the day not possessing at least a share of first-place in the American League East for the first time since June 4. So Tillman's outing, in which he allowed just six baserunners and struck out seven, was a welcome sight.
Joseph said Tillman's performance was, "the real definition of pitching."
"Using all of his pitches, all different quadrants. Inside, outside, up, down," Joseph said. "Not just staying in one zone, not just pitching dominant with one pitch in one area."
It helped that the Orioles' offense awoke from its series-long slumber. Despite being without Jones and Matt Wieters, who has missed the past three games after taking a 94-mph fastball of his right foot Monday, the Orioles doubled their run production from the rest of the series in the victory.
And they did it without the long ball, which has supplied much of their run output this season; entering the contest, Baltimore led the Major Leagues with 142 homers. But it was a two-RBI single from JJ Hardy and two-RBI double from Jonathan Schoop that made the difference.
Manager Buck Showalter didn't put much stock in breaking the losing streak, insisting that all teams go through ups and downs.
This swoon was cruel, though. In addition to losses, it brought injuries and viruses. Even Showalter was too sick to make it to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.
"I've washed my hands like 10 times today," Tillman said. "This deal, it isn't a good deal."
Tillman's fears are certainly warranted. But as the victorious Orioles prepared to head home for the first time since July 10, chatter and laughter filled the clubhouse.
Not a single cough could be heard.
Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York and covered the Orioles on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.