July 26, 2015

After he won 29 games the last two seasons, the Baltimore Orioles were expecting more of the same from Chris Tillman in 2015.

It took half a season, but it appears they've finally gotten that pitcher back.

Tillman tries to continue his dominant stretch and pitch the Orioles to a fifth consecutive win Wednesday night against the reeling Atlanta Braves.

This had all the makings of a lost season for Tillman, who had an AL-worst 6.22 ERA with 10 homers surrendered through June 21. He's changed course completely over his last five starts, however, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, walking six, striking out 28 and allowing no home runs. Seattle's Felix Hernandez (1.09) is the only AL pitcher with a better ERA during that span.

After tossing one-hit ball over eight innings and retiring the last 23 batters he faced in a 3-0 victory at Detroit, Tillman (7-7, 4.71 ERA) was nearly as good at Tampa Bay on Friday. He gave up one run and two hits in seven-plus innings but was denied a victory when Baltimore's bullpen faltered in the eighth of a 3-1 loss.

''Tilly was the reason we stayed in the ball game,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

The right-hander has never faced the Braves but has seen plenty of A.J. Pierzynski, who is 6 for 21 with a homer in this matchup.

Baltimore (50-49) has rebounded from four straight losses with a four-game win streak, beating Atlanta 7-3 on Tuesday behind two homers and a career high-tying five RBIs from Chris Davis.

''We know it's going to be a challenge,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''But we're competing, we're engaged and our guys will be as good as they're capable of being. I have a lot of confidence in that.''

The Orioles' only three-game sweeps this season came against Boston and Cleveland in June, and Tillman won the finale both times.

Tuesday's performance was another positive sign for an Orioles offense that struggled greatly during a 5-15 stretch. They have totaled 19 runs and batted .318 with runners in scoring position in the four wins after averaging 3.2 runs and hitting .135 in those situations in the previous 20 games.

Davis is 8 for 26 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in his past seven contests.

''My job is to go out and play as hard as I can for the Orioles,'' said Davis, an impending free agent whose name has come up in trade rumors. ''That's on every guy's mind. For us to pay attention (to rumors) and step outside the lines is not going to be beneficial.''

Freddie Freeman, who missed more than a month with sprained right wrist, homered for the first time since June 13, but Atlanta (46-54) has lost 12 of 16 to fall a season-high eight games under .500. The Braves have also dropped 15 of 19 on the road, scoring 20 runs in their last nine.

With scheduled starter Manny Banuelos heading to the disabled list Tuesday, Mike Foltynewicz (3-2, 5.27) will be promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to start for Atlanta. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA in nine starts this season, last making one June 14 against the New York Mets. He was tagged for six runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 innings in that game.

Foltynewicz tossed one scoreless inning out of the bullpen at Colorado on July 11 in his most recent appearance.

He's 0-1 with a 5.01 ERA in four career road starts.

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