BALTIMORE –- After the Orioles found out Brian Matusz’s eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his arm was upheld last Friday, they knew they’d play a man short.
It hasn’t mattered.
The Orioles have won five of six since the suspension began, and on Thursday night, recorded both their first series sweep and four-game winning streak of the season.
Thanks to three home runs, the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 6-5 before 22,480 at Oriole Park.
Chris Tillman benefitted from the home runs and good defense, and while the bullpen wasn’t as airtight as it was the last two nights, it was good enough.
Manager Buck Showalter’s bullpen allowed a run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings. In the three-game series, sans Matusz, they gave up just four hits in 12 innings.
“They kind of rally around it. Not that there's a safety net. It was going to be a need. They saw it coming. They knew. They're trying to pick up Brian and pick up the team,” Showalter said. “We're covered until we get to Sunday, then Brian's got to get some people out to be useful. He's getting them out down in Sarasota, that's for sure.”
Matusz has been throwing extended spring training games in Sarasota while his teammates thrive without him.
While he’s been gone, Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold have returned. Wieters works well with Tillman, and Reimold have seven putouts, several of them challenging, and he hit his first home run as an Oriole since July 10, 2013.
"I was thinking tonight watching Nolan, this is a guy who basically broke his neck diving in the stands for his team, his family, his city, whatever,” Showalter said.
Reimold’s third-inning home run gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
“I don’t think I was thinking. It was just happening. But I was soaking it up. I was enjoying it. It was fun to be back out there in Camden and playing for the Orioles again,” Reimold said.
Adam Jones homered off Wade Miley with two outs in the first, his 10th. In the bottom of the second, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy singled with one out. Davis scored on Steve Pearce’s single.
Three batters after Reimold’s home run, Delmon Young’s RBI single scored Jones for a 4-0 lead.
Tillman (4-7) retired the first nine Boston batters, thanks to some deft fielding. Reimold ran down Brock Holt’s drive to left for the game’s second out, and Manny Machado went near the outfield grass to field Hanley Ramirez’s ground ball and throw him out to end the first.
Dustin Pedroia and Holt began the fourth with singles. Ramirez walked to load the bases. David Ortiz hit a short fly to left. Pedroia scored on Mike Napoli’s fly to center, and Pablo Sandoval doubled with two runs to cut the Orioles’ lead to 4-3.
As he has so many times in the past, Wieters was there to guide Tillman through the game. He is especially meaningful to Tillman.
“Everyone knows what Wieters is capable of, especially with me. Having played together for so long and coming up together, he knows me inside and out,” Tillman said.
Machado hit his 10th home run with two outs in the fourth.
Miley and manager John Farrell argued in the dugout when he was lifted after the fourth. In two starts against the Orioles (29-30) this season, Miley (5-5) has allowed 12 runs on 14 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Tillman walked Ramirez to start the sixth, and with two outs Sandoval singled. Brad Brach replaced him and allowed an RBI single to Xander Bogaerts.
In 5 2/3 innings, Tillman allowed four runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Machado reached on a two-base error by Sandoval to start the seventh. Reimold walked off Steven Wright, and Machado took third on Jones’ fly to left. He scored on Wieters’ sacrifice fly to center and the Orioles led 6-4.
Ortiz hit his seventh home run off Chaz Roe with one out in the eighth. Boston (27-34) cut the lead to 6-5.
Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 17th save.
Reimold and Tillman have played together since 2008, and as the Orioles moved within a game of .500, the winning pitcher took a moment to appreciate Reimold.
“Nolan is a special player. On any given night he’s capable of doing some impressive things, and tonight was one of them,” Tillman said.
NOTES: In Bowie, Kevin Gausman allowed four hits on four hits in 3 1/3 innings against Binghamton. He struck out four and walked none. …The New York Yankees begin a three-game series on Friday night. Michael Pineda (7-2, 3.33) faces Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 3.02). Pineda struck out 16 Orioles on May 10.