O's All-Star starters show what got them there
Jones, Hardy hit three-run shots, Davis hits 35th to back Tillman
BALTIMORE -- When the spotlight shines on the Mets' Citi Field for Tuesday night's All-Star Game, the Orioles will be one of the most well-represented clubs, with three starters and a reserve taking the field among baseball's best.
On Friday night at Camden Yards, Baltimore's trio of All-Star starters, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Chris Davis, showed the kind of star power that got them there. Each blasted a home run, as the Orioles -- baseball's far-and-away leader with 128 home runs on the season -- mashed their way to an 8-5 series-opening win over the Blue Jays.
"They're a force of consistency for us," manager Buck Showalter said of Hardy and Jones, who each hit three-run shots, and Davis, whose two-run blast was his league-leading 35th of the year. "Not only as players, but as people. I think that's the thing you miss when you're not here. Not so much what they do statistically -- that's pretty special -- but the consistency they bring and the approach to the game."
That approach resulted in eight runs -- all via the homer -- to back a solid outing from right-hander Chris Tillman, who picked up his team-leading 11th win and 12th quality start. Tillman went six innings, allowing three runs (which came in the first three innings) in a five-strikeout night that snapped Baltimore's four-game losing streak to Toronto.
"It's huge to get the win tonight with two [upcoming] day games back-to-back," Davis said of the O's third consecutive victory. "Especially coming off that series with Texas, we want to keep the momentum going into the All-Star break."
A night removed from setting a new career high in home runs and RBIs, Davis continued what has been a torrid first half, smacking his two-run shot in the second inning to tie the game at 2. Davis' blast, on Toronto starter Mark Buehrle's 1-2 fastball, set a new club record with 88 RBIs before the All-Star break. The previous mark of 86, set by Boog Powell in 1969, was also done in 94 games.
Would the 27-year-old Davis be satisfied if he was told this spring his totals already this season would have been it for the entire year?
"I think so. It's a productive year," Davis said. "Did we go to the World Series? Did we win the World Series? I think that's the ultimate goal. How far did the team go? A lot of guys had productive years last year, but we didn't finish where we wanted to finish."
Jones struck next, connecting for a three-run shot off Buehrle -- who allowed a season-high eight earned runs -- in the third inning to give Baltimore a 5-3 lead. After singles from Manny Machado and Nick Markakis, Jones drove a 2-2 changeup into the left-field seats for his fifth go-ahead homer this season.
The O's center fielder, who was a triple short of the cycle, made a pivotal play in the top of the fourth. With one out, J.P. Arencibia laced a ball into the gap, and a hustling Jones chased it down and fired a perfect throw -- despite being off-balance -- to Hardy to nab Arencibia at second. Tillman followed the outfield assist -- Jones' fourth of the year -- by getting Mark DeRosa to ground out to end the inning.
"That was special," Tillman said of Jones' play. "That's game-changing right there. And we appreciate it as pitchers."
Tillman pitched around a walk and a leadoff single in the fifth and a one-out single to Colby Rasmus in the sixth, battling throughout his 108-pitch outing as the top two home run teams in baseball combined for five long balls.
"That's what they do and in a great park to hit home runs," Toronto manager John Gibbons said of the potent Orioles lineup. "Yeah, we hit two homers, but they had the two big three-run ones. That's going to happen [at Camden Yards]. You've got to go toe-to-toe. We got  hits, we just didn't score a lot. …You've just got to slug it out with them, and we didn't."
Hardy's three-run homer ensured Tillman's effort wouldn't go to waste, as he connected on Buehrle's 2-1 offering for a three-run sixth-inning blast. The key add-on runs came on Hardy's 16th home run of the season, and also scored Jones and Davis to give Buehrle the most earned runs he's surrendered since July 12, 2009, as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
"They've been swinging the bats well all year," Tillman said of a well-balanced Orioles lineup. "You got to give them credit. These guys go up there grinding every at-bat. And it's fun to watch."
Jairo Asencio, who had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk earlier in the day, pitched around a leadoff walk for a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts following Tillman. After lefty Brian Matusz allowed a pair of one-out singles, Tommy Hunter retired Arencibia and DeRosa to end the eighth. Hunter surrendered a two-out, two-run double down the right-field line to Adam Lind to bring on closer Jim Johnson, who needed one pitch to seal the game and pick up his league-leading 32nd save.
Is Showalter happy with the way his team -- which lost six of its first eight games in July -- has played of late?
"Happy? That gives a connotation of satisfied," Showalter said. "I think satisfaction, happiness means you're content, and as long as there are people ahead of us and what we're trying to accomplish, I don't think anybody's content with it."