DETROIT -- Chris Tillman stepped off the disabled list and pitched the Orioles through a duel with Justin Verlander for the second time this year, allowing home runs from Michael Bourn and Jonathan Schoop to power the O's to a 3-1 win over the Tigers in the rubber match of a three-game series Sunday at Comerica Park.
With the win, Baltimore is tied with Toronto, which lost to Boston on Sunday, for the two American League Wild Card spots. The Tigers, now two games back, remain even with the Yankees, who lost Sunday to the Rays, as the closest Wild Card pursuers.
Verlander (14-8) lost for the first time since Aug. 16, but he was handed his third consecutive loss over the past two years to the O's, including a 1-0 defeat to Tillman on May 13 at Camden Yards. Bourn's two-run homer in the third and Schoop's fourth-inning solo shot saddled Verlander with three runs for just the second time in his past 14 starts.
"I yanked a heater to Bourn and threw a bad changeup to Schoop. This lineup likes fastballs, and that's all I had," said Verlander, who struggled to command his secondary pitches.
That was enough for Tillman (16-5), who held Detroit's offense to four hits over six innings. Ian Kinsler's two-out RBI single briefly broke Tillman's stride in the fifth inning, but he retired the middle of Detroit's lineup in order three times in as many trips.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bourn to be wild: Bourn put the Orioles on the board in the third inning with a two-run home run off Verlander to right field, his fifth homer of the season and second as an Oriole since being traded from the D-backs at the end of August.
Bourn entered Sunday's game with a career .371 batting average against Verlander, which is why Orioles manager Buck Showalter had him hitting second. He went 1-for-2 with a walk against Verlander on Sunday and added a sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning.
"[He has] a good track record, and you learn to follow it," Showalter said.
Two-out rally gets Tigers on board: Tillman confounded the Tigers' lineup until back-to-back line-drive singles with two outs in the fifth took advantage of Justin Upton's leadoff walk. Jose Iglesias hit a 1-2 fastball for an opposite-field liner into right, moving Upton to third, before Kinsler turned on a changeup for a liner into left-center. Twenty-four of Kinsler's 73 RBIs have come with two outs and a runner in scoring position.
Settling in: It was smooth sailing early on for Tillman in his return from the DL. He made it through the first four innings with just two baserunners, doubles from Cameron Maybin and Erick Aybar. Tillman had two strikeouts and retired the Tigers in order two times in the first four innings before allowing a walk and a pair of singles that led to the Tigers' lone run in the fifth. He bounced back for another 1-2-3 inning in his final frame.
Showalter seemed to think Tillman showed very few signs of rust in his return from right shoulder injury, but the hurler had other thoughts when it came to his command.
"It was kind of hit or miss," Tillman said. "I feel like it got better as the game went, but early on, there was definitely some rust there for sure." More >
O's hold Cabrera hitless: Though Miguel Cabrera entered the day with a .373 (81-for-217) career average against Baltimore, the Orioles had him flummoxed all weekend. From a first-inning strikeout on a high fastball from Tillman with a runner on second to a ground-ball double play to get Mychal Givens out of the eighth with two runners on, the O's neutralized Detroit's most dangerous hitter, holding him hitless in a three-game series for the first time since he went 0-for-9 at Oakland May 27-29.
"I give a lot of credit to the Baltimore pitchers. They did a nice job against us," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "But we'll heat up again."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The two home runs off Verlander raised his season total to 28 this season, a career high. He's on track to become the first Tiger to allow 30 homers in a season since Mike Maroth did so in 2005. Maroth also holds the Tigers record for the Comerica Park era (since '00) with 34 homers allowed in '03.
"No. If we don't have it, somebody's going to pay. That's the way it is. I'm glad it's going to be someone else. Somebody's going to pay." -- Showalter, on whether the Orioles had a key to holding Cabrera 0-for-9 in the series
"I think it's too early to cancel the season." -- Ausmus, on impact of losing back-to-back series to Orioles and White Sox this week
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: The Orioles head to Boston for the last leg of a three-city, nine-game road trip, beginning with Monday's 7:10 p.m. ET game at Fenway Park. Wade Miley (8-12, 5.49 ERA) takes the mound still trying to settle in since joining the Orioles. He is 1-4 with a 7.15 ERA since the Mariners traded him to Baltimore.
Tigers: Detroit has divisional play for the next 2 1/2 weeks, beginning with a four-game set against the Twins at Comerica Park. Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.94 ERA) gets the start in Monday's series opener at 7:10 p.m. ET.