O's bats can't match standout defense

Inning-ending outs at plate keep score close, but Greene tops Tillman

O's bats can't match standout defense

BALTIMORE -- Atop the American League East and facing the Yankees -- particularly downtrodden, having lost 80 percent of their starting rotation, including ace Masahiro Tanaka -- the Orioles had to feel pretty good about this weekend series.

But all of the excitement around Friday night's walk-off win in 10 innings was diminished with Saturday afternoon's 3-0 loss to New York, as Baltimore had no answer for rookie Shane Greene over the right-hander's 7 1/3 innings, missing a prime opportunity to further distance themselves from a divisional rival. The Orioles mustered four hits off the 25-year-old Greene, making his second career start, and took just their third loss in 11 games.

"We knew it coming in, that he would present a problem," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Greene, who picked up his first Major League win in his last outing, at Cleveland on Monday, and used a mid-90s fastball to give the Orioles' offense fits all afternoon.

"That's why he was Pitcher of the Year in their organization last year. He's got good stuff, a good plane and a good slider and command of it. I think their club threw 54 offspeed pitches today."

Greene, 25, struck out nine and plowed through the middle of the order to erase the O's best chance to score all day, when Steve Pearce and Nick Markakis hit sixth-inning singles. Greene had no trouble with Baltimore's All-Stars, getting Adam Jones to ground into a double play on the first pitch and striking out Nelson Cruz. Markakis' single was the last hit the righty allowed before exiting to a smattering of applause from the sellout crowd of 46,667 at Camden Yards.

"He had pretty good life on his ball," Markakis said of Greene. "Nothing was straight -- he was sinking the ball, cutting the ball. Had a slider that was hard to pick up, as you can see."

Greene retired the first 10 Orioles before Pearce worked a walk, and Manny Machado's two-out single in the fifth inning marked the O's first hit. Ryan Flaherty followed, shooting the ball up the middle before stealing second to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. But Friday night's hero, Nick Hundley, struck out to end the frame.

"I threw some good sliders and some good fastballs, but when I say big pitches, I mean big-situation strikeout or big-situation double-play ball," Greene said.

Greene's dominance handed the Orioles (51-42) their seventh shutout loss of the season, the first since June 13, and negated another quality start from right-hander Chris Tillman.

Tillman battled, allowing seven hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings, but he ends an inconsistent first half with quality starts in six of his final seven outings.

"I think [I'm] getting better," Tillman, who is 7-5 with a 4.11 ERA, said of his first half. "I had a rough start, but it's not how you start; it's how you finish. I think we are only getting better as a pitching staff. It's been fun to show up every day and watch these guys go to work, so I'm happy with the fact that it's getting better."

The Yankees got on the board courtesy of Mark Teixeira's third-inning double, but the Orioles' defense made sure it stopped there, with Markakis firing the ball to second baseman Ryan Flaherty, who nailed Derek Jeter at the plate. Tillman, who gave up a leadoff single and another hit to Jeter, was able to wiggle free of a potential big inning as Baltimore recorded its 21st outfield assistant of the season. Jones added another by getting Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate to end the seventh after Brian McCann singled.

Tillman exited after Jeter's single in the seventh pushed New York's lead to two, with lefty T.J. McFarland coming on and allowing Ellsbury's double, which charged a third run to Tillman.

"It's another one of those [outings] that kind of gets looked at [poorly], not properly appreciated, because of what the other guy was doing," Showalter said of Tillman's performance. "We had people out there, a lot and he seemed to be a hitter or two from letting it get away from him, but he didn't. We've seen that a lot with Chris. He kept us engaged there, 1-0. We had a really good relay down the right-field line and Jonesy threw another guy out at the plate, so I'm proud of that.

"We just couldn't mount much off a guy who was on top of his game today."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.