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Offense can't bail out shaky Tillman in return

Davis makes costly error as homer streak ends at four games

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles offense, a group that has carried the team through the season's first few games, couldn't do enough Saturday night to cover for a disappointing outing by starter Chris Tillman.

Instead, a costly error by the player chiefly responsible for the offensive surge -- first baseman Chris Davis -- led to an unearned ninth-inning run that handed Baltimore a 6-5 series-evening loss to the Twins.

Davis, trying to create history by becoming the first Major League player to homer in five consecutive games to start the season, went 1-for-3 with an RBI single. He also allowed an Aaron Hicks grounder to scoot under his glove with one out in the ninth, and after closer Jim Johnson issued a two-out walk to Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau gave Minnesota the lead with a single to center.

"It literally went right between my legs," Davis said of the play, which he went back and watched again after the game. "Just one of those things. I'll wear it on that one."

The loss drops the Orioles to 3-2 on the season, but keeps Davis' RBI streak intact and puts him one game shy of tying Brooks Robinson (1966, 12 RBIs) and Mike Devereaux ('94, 8 RBIs) for the club record for consecutive games with an RBI.

"Chris knows how we feel about him," manager Buck Showalter said of Davis, who is hitting .556 with a Major League-leading 17 RBIs. "And he's done a great job at first base for us since the first day of spring. He's been an asset for us there, just like he has offensively. Drove in a big run for us tonight, muscled a ball out there and took a key walk. He's been a big contributor for us and will continue to be."

While Davis' error led to the decisive run, it was Tillman who set the tone early, allowing five runs over 3 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old Tillman, who was reinstated from the disabled list prior to the game, surrendered seven hits and four walks and said location, not stuff, was the issue.

"I felt good throughout the game," said Tillman, who allowed five or more earned runs just once in 15 starts last season. "Physically, I felt really good. Mechanically, I felt like I was fine. All game long, I was kind of yanking, yanking my fastball and my changeup. Made some good pitches with my changeup, but I threw it to the wrong part of the plate."

The Twins got on the board early with a sacrifice fly in the second, but Tillman -- who twice loaded the bases -- was able to escape without any major damage. He wasn't as lucky in the third, allowing four runs, including a two-run homer from Chris Parmelee, and gave way to T.J. McFarland after a two-out single.

"I was real pleased with the stuff he featured, just couldn't get into a consistent rhythm after that first inning," Showalter said of Tillman. "He'll be better."

It was hard to do any better for a big league debut than McFarland, who threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings and was a bright spot for the Orioles. The 23-year-old McFarland, a Rule 5 Draft pick selected from the Indians at the Winter Meetings, allowed one hit and struck out five in an impressive 40-pitch outing.

"It was an incredible feeling," McFarland said of running out from the bullpen. "Nothing beats it. The adrenaline, the excitement, I really can't even put into words. It really is just the best feeling you could ever feel."

With McFarland settling the game down, the Orioles loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring a pair of runs to tie the game. A trio of hits from Nate McLouth, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis put starter Vance Worley on the ropes before Adam Jones sent a 1-2 pitch into center field for a two-run single. But that's all the O's would get, as Davis and Matt Wieters hit shallow fly balls, and J.J. Hardy grounded out to keep the score knotted at 5.

The Orioles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, capitalizing on a pair of less-than-stellar defensive plays from Minnesota. After Machado singled, left fielder Willingham tried to make a play on Markakis' ball, but it scooted by him for a double. Jones' swinging bunt was fielded by Worley, who chose to throw to first after a late jump on the ball. Machado scored easily, and Marakakis -- who had four hits -- raced home as Worley's errant throw got by Morneau at first.

"It's big early on to swing the bats collectively as a team," Davis said of an Oriole club that is hitting .315 with 34 runs scored in five games. "I kind of think the pitchers have the advantage the first couple of months, when it's cold and hitters are trying to get their rhythm and timing. But we've been swinging the bats well, getting runners on and scoring runs.

"The defense, the bullpen, that's going to come together. It's part of the game. We had a few opportunities earlier in the game where we could have driven in more runs, but we gave ourselves a chance to win the game, and that's all you can ask for."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Chris Davis, T.J. McFarland