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BAL@NYY: Davis' two-run shot puts the O's up early

NEW YORK -- Their synergy couldn't stay a secret forever. Chris Davis and Chris Tillman have often had their stars aligned this season, a trend that has brought the Orioles dominant results.

Prior to Saturday, Davis had homered in seven of Tillman's first 17 starts this season, and Baltimore had yet to lose in those circumstances. Davis drilled another homer on Saturday -- his fifth straight in games pitched by Tillman -- but the Yankees overcame his power to earn a 5-4 victory.

Tillman, who had won seven straight decisions prior to Saturday's loss, couldn't help but notice the way that Davis has impacted his season. The right-hander started to say that he wasn't aware of the slugger's numbers when he's on the mound, but then he instantly recanted that statement.

"I haven't noticed. No, I do," said Tillman of the star power Davis has brought to the lineup. "He's special. He puts some good swings on balls that probably shouldn't be hit and he's hitting them out of the ballpark. He's strong enough to do that. He's fun to watch. I'm glad he's on our side."

With that last comment, Tillman undoubtedly speaks for thousands of Orioles fans.

Davis, who sits atop the Major League home run chart, drilled a two-run shot to center field in the first inning on Saturday. That drive not only tied his career high of 33 home runs -- set last year in his first full season with the Orioles -- but it also moved Davis into some impressive company.

Davis has more home runs before the All-Star break than any big league player since 2001, when Luis Gonzalez (35) and Barry Bonds (39) went into the All-Star Game on a torrid streak. Davis also has the most first-half homers for any American League player since Ken Griffey Jr. had 35 in 1998.

Davis said it was tough to enjoy his home run because of the team's defeat.

"On the days that we win, I can," Davis said. "When you hit a home run and your team doesn't win, there's a feeling that maybe you could've done something more. I think the fact that I've been playing every day -- left-handers, right-handers, no matter who's on the mound -- has been huge for me. You get that momentum going, you start feeling good at the plate, you can carry it in day in and day out."

Davis, who recently became the first big league player in history to have 25 doubles and 30 homers before July 1st, gave the Orioles their first lead Saturday with a two-run blast in the first inning. Baltimore added two more runs against Andy Pettitte and owned a 4-2 lead after four innings.

And with the way Tillman's been pitching, that seemed like enough. Tillman hadn't lost since a 3-1 defeat to Tampa Bay on May 19, but he didn't have his best command Saturday.

"He's been solid," said manager Buck Showalter of his starting pitcher. "Like I said before, he's graduated into a guy that we feel we can count on. He had an extra day's rest today. We let him go a little bit. I thought he's earned the right to get a chance to be a part of a winning game."

The Yankees started the fifth inning with back-to-back singles, and another pair of back-to-back hits -- this time by Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano -- pushed two runs across to make it a 4-4 game. New York took the lead on a base hit by Eduardo Nunez with one out in the sixth inning.

Tillman left at that point and tied his season-high by allowing 10 hits -- all singles -- to the Yankees. The former second-round draftee is now 3-4 with a 7.43 ERA in nine career starts against New York.

"It was a tough one for me today," said Tillman. "These guys grind away the whole game. They put consistent, good at-bats throughout the game. It wears on you, but at the same time, you know you've got to make pitches. Any time, you're one or two pitches away. Look at it that way."

And if Tillman was perpetually a pitch away, that's how tight this race is becoming. The Yankees pulled a half-game ahead of Baltimore in the AL East on Saturday, but the Orioles own a 6-5 edge in the season series. New York has takes the season series over Baltimore 26 times in the last 30 years.

But this year is different, and the Orioles know it could be tight all the way through the tape.

"These guys have got a good team," said Tillman, 24, of the Yankees. "They're going to battle, they're going to grind their way through like they did today. It's pretty clear that they're not going to go away. They've got a good team, a good young team. We look forward to facing them."

Pettitte (6-6) overcame the early Davis homer to handle the Orioles. He weathered his own throwing error in the second inning, and he retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced. Pettitte left with two outs in the seventh, and the Yankees bullpen held firm.

The Davis and Tillman connection first showed up on April 11, Tillman's second start of the year. The right-hander got a no-decision that day, and Davis didn't homer for him again until May 24. Davis went deep twice in Tillman's start on May 29, a win for the team but a no-decision for the starter.

Davis, in fact, has gone deep in every Tillman start dating back to June 14, but he's been so good for so many pitchers this season that he can't keep track of when he hits his homers. Davis didn't realize his statistics when Tillman pitches, but he said he'd be open to a new arrangement.

"I didn't know that until you just said that," Davis said. "Maybe we can try to talk to Buck and get him to run him out there every other day or something like that. I think it's probably just a coincidence, the fact that I've hit home runs when he's started. Tilly's thrown the ball really well for us this year."

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