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BAL@SEA: Tillman stymies Mariners over 8 1/3 innings

Two struggling teams will meet at Target Field on Monday night, when the Orioles and Twins kick off a four-game series, their final meeting of the season.

Minnesota, mired in last place in the American League Central, was swept during its three-game series against the A's to start its homestand, the seventh time this season the Twins have been swept. They have dropped five straight and seven of eight.

Baltimore is riding a 7-15 stretch that has pushed the club eight games behind the Yankees in the AL East and only a half-game ahead of the Rays for second place. The Orioles led the division as recently as June 6.

Perhaps Chris Tillman can provide a boost on Monday, when he makes his second big league start of the season. The 24-year-old right-hander has posted a 5.33 ERA in 37 career starts over parts of four seasons, but his 2012 debut was a resounding success. On July 4 at Seattle, he held the Mariners to two unearned runs in 8 1/3 innings and struck out seven.

"I feel like, in the past, I haven't been as confident as I am right now," Tillman said. "With what happened in my delivery, I feel like it's there for me now and I'm able to repeat it with all my pitches. I'm very confident right now, just got to keep it that way and keep working."

Tillman, who had a 3.63 ERA in 16 games at Triple-A Norfolk this year, was supposed to start on Sunday, but the outing was pushed back after he experienced back spasms on Thursday. Tillman called the spasms, "definitely serious," but said he felt good after playing catch on Saturday. He was added to the active roster on Monday. The Orioles had him pitch once at Double-A Bowie during the All-Star break.

"Every time I go out there I want to go out there and compete and give my team a chance to win, no matter the circumstances," Tillman said. "I think it's kind of the mindset you have to have. If you're not [like that], you get content, and this game will humble you real fast."

The Twins will start Scott Diamond, who is looking for his 10th quality start in 13 outings. The 25-year-old lefty is 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA and owns a 2.01 ERA at home.

Minnesota decided to give him some extra rest around the All-Star break after he held the Tigers to two runs over seven innings on July 5. Diamond has logged 113 2/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors this season.

"He's thrown a lot of innings, so we'll give him that extra break," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Somebody is going to go 10-12 days in between starts, so I think they believe it can be a benefit to him and won't hurt him."

Orioles: Quiet bats in Baltimore
• While going 9-16 since June 15, the Orioles have averaged 2.8 runs per game. Facing Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Sunday, Baltimore was shut out for the fifth time in that stretch, and held to two runs or fewer for the 14th time.

One culprit has been the team's performance with runners in scoring position. The Orioles went 8-for-17 in those situations against the Pirates on June 14, but are 25-for-149 (.168) since, including 3-for-31 (.097) in their last four games.

• Designated hitter Jim Thome has homered against 400 different pitchers while racking up 609 career taters. That group includes Diamond, who served up No. 607 on June 14, when Thome was with the Phillies.

Twins: A sloppy start to the second half
• Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hasn't been pleased with the way his team has emerged from the All-Star break, with miscues on the bases and in the field contributing to losses on Friday and Saturday. Gardenhire called both games "sloppy."

"That's something we haven't really seen a lot of," he said. "We have to get away from that. We can't make silly mistakes out there and expect to do anything. This group as a whole, I like. They play hard. They're trying hard. Some of the mistakes are aggressive mistakes. You like that part of it.

"But, obviously, we're getting farther and farther out when we're supposed to be going the other way. We have to really start figuring out how to win baseball games."

• Left fielder Josh Willingham didn't homer on Sunday, but he entered the day on pace for 41 home runs this season. The only other Twins player to reach the 40-homer plateau in a season was Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who did it seven times.

Worth noting
• The Orioles swept the Twins in a three-game series to open the season at Camden Yards. They also earned a sweep the last time the teams played at Target Field, outscoring Minnesota, 24-4, over four games last August.

• Diamond has never faced the Orioles. Tillman has a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the Twins, but has never pitched at Target Field.

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