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MIN@BAL: Paredes lines first homer of the season

BALTIMORE -- Not too much went right on the field for the Orioles on Saturday night. Chris Tillman struggled to just his third non-quality start in 16 outings. The bullpen's scoreless-innings streak came to an end. And there was no offensive explosion to make it all irrelevant.

Instead, the go-ahead run found its way on base by way of a plunking and crossed home plate on a sacrifice fly. Tillman described his own start as a grind, and that could describe the entirety of the game. But all that mattered was the final -- a 3-2 win against the Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

For the second straight night, Adam Jones got hit by a pitch. This one put him on with one out in the seventh inning, just moments after Tommy Hunter and Andrew Miller combined to blow a one-run lead. Jones raced from first to third on a single by Nelson Cruz, and then Chris Davis lifted a shallow fly ball to center off Minnesota relief pitcher Jared Burton. Jones tagged up and charged home to give Baltimore its final run and bring the crowd of 30,322 to its feet.

"I think the key to the whole situation there was going first to third," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "A lot of guys would have been content there."

The sprint home didn't concern him either.

"I was confident that the way the center fielder [Danny Santana] had to catch the ball that he had a chance," Showalter added.

"He had to run 18,000 miles and then he couldn't stop," Twins manager Rod Gardenhire said. "He did what he had to do because of the shallow ball. He just couldn't get his feet set."

Until then, another surprise contributor kept the O's afloat. The Orioles were hit with another blow on Friday when Steve Pearce was forced out of the game before the fourth inning with an abdominal injury.

That thrust outfielder Jimmy Paredes into action on Friday night and forced him into the starting lineup Saturday night for the first time since May 27 with the Royals. In his second at-bat, he smacked a ground-rule double to drive Davis home and get the Orioles on the board in the fourth inning. In his third, he drilled his first home run since May 21, 2013, to left-center field to again give Baltimore a lead.

The O's are already playing without third baseman Manny Machado and Matt Wieters for the rest of the season and have been carried by surprise performances all over the diamond. Pearce and Cruz have set career bests in home runs. Outfielder Delmon Young is batting .300 for the first time since his debut year. Paredes, who was acquired in a trade with Kansas City in July, is simply the latest.

"It feels good," said Paredes, who started at third base. "I'm excited. We have a very good team here, we have fun and we play the game the right way -- hard. We're working hard. We're trying to make the playoffs and win the World Series."

Despite blowing the lead, the bullpen still shut the door to seal the fifth win in six games to start this 11-game homestand. Relief pitcher Darren O'Day tossed a 1-2-3 inning and first-year closer Zach Britton notched his 30th save of the season with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth.

After an uncharacteristically short outing by Tillman -- he lasted only five innings despite giving up just one run -- the 'pen lifted the Orioles despite surrendering a run.

"We're playing close games," Britton said. "Our offense is getting just enough runs to where the pitching can go in there and shut them down. That's kind of what we've been doing the whole season."

With the Yankees' 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays earlier in the day, Baltimore stretched its lead in the American League East to eight games, and additional reinforcements are on the way.

During the sixth inning on Saturday, the O's traded for White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza. Immediately following the game, they dealt for Red Sox utility man Kelly Johnson.

These aren't the moves of a team trying to claw its way into the postseason, but rather those of one that has the full expectation of being there. As the Orioles' magic number shrinks -- it's at 21 now -- that possibility is becoming more of a tangible reality.

"I like the people that are here," Showalter said. "It gives us some more depth and some more what-if as we go forward."

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