De Aza swats pair as O's lower magic number to nine

Jones goes back-to-back in third; Tillman lasts five, 'pen stifles Boston

De Aza swats pair as O's lower magic number to nine

BOSTON -- It should come as no surprise that the Orioles hit three home runs in Tuesday night's 4-1 win over the Red Sox, since the American League East sluggers, who lead baseball with 191 long balls, are poised to reach the 200-homer mark for the third consecutive season.

But it was a new face who put the first-place Orioles (85-59) one step closer to October, with Alejandro De Aza homering twice -- including his first in a Baltimore uniform -- to whittle Baltimore's magic number to clinch the division to nine. The O's, who are 33-19 against Boston (63-82) since 2012, maintained a commanding 10-game lead over the Blue Jays in the AL East and are 11 games in front of the third-place Yankees.

But they still swear, publicly at least, that there isn't a whole lot different about these September games.

"You understand what's going on," center fielder Adam Jones said of Baltimore's largest divisional lead in 35 years. "But 'til it's at zero and we clinch a spot, we've got something to do."

De Aza, acquired in a late August trade with the White Sox, wasted no time in achieving his second career multi-homer game. The outfielder took Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo deep in his first at-bat, driving a 1-1 pitch an estimated 396 feet for a two-run homer to right that also scored Nick Markakis.

"He put some good swings on it," manager Buck Showalter said of De Aza, who also doubled in the ninth. "I really like the ball he hit the other way, too, after the fact. He didn't get big. He's quietly been very steady since he got here."

De Aza extended the Orioles' lead to three in his next at-bat in the third, sending Ranaudo's 1-1 fastball over the bullpen in right field.

"It's chemistry and I want to be part of that," De Aza said of joining the club's home run barrage. "Honestly, I wasn't looking for those home runs, but it's coming and I'll take it."

Jones followed with his 25th homer, a towering shot that cleared the AAA sign above the Green Monster in left field and presumably landed along the street. Jones is the first outfielder in Orioles history to record four consecutive 25-homer seasons, and his blast improved Baltimore to 23-0 this season when hitting at least three home runs.

"I look at it from the side of when we give our pitchers the lead, they are shutting the door. I will take that," Jones said of the statistic. "They are the ones who are going down there having a shutdown inning as the next one. We are giving them some support and they are giving us some support by going out there and throwing up a zero."

Baltimore starter Chris Tillman did just that, shutting down Boston in the latter part of the first and third innings. Tillman also continued his streak of 18 consecutive starts in which he's allowed three earned runs or fewer, although the righty wasn't at his best.

"It was tough for me," said Tillman, who lasted five innings and allowed six hits and two walks. "From the get-go, my fastball command wasn't sharp, but my other pitches were. I think if I'm able to throw strike one a few more times, I'm a little better off. I struggled in the strike one category. I felt like I was digging myself out of holes all night, but we were able to make some pitches when we needed to and that's always a plus."

Boston's only run off Tillman came on Xander Bogaerts' homer to left in the fourth and he exited the 108-pitch outing in favor of Evan Meek, who recorded the next five outs. Andrew Miller threw two-thirds of an inning in his first outing against his former club and closer Zach Britton was able to rebound from a shaky start to the ninth to pick up his 34th save.

Britton, who has been a pleasant surprise all season, allowed a leadoff walk to Bogaerts, who was thrown out at the plate by Kelly Johnson as he tried to score on a double. The first out of the inning kept the Red Sox off the board, then Britton recorded the next two outs to end it.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for 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.