SAN DIEGO -- For the second time in three games, an opposing club made the decision to pit a left-handed reliever against Orioles first baseman Chris Davis in a close game. Both times, Davis, baseball's home run leader, has made them pay.
The lefty slugger doubled in a pair of two-out, 10th-inning, tie-breaking runs off Javier Lopez on Friday night, lifting the O's past the Giants in a 5-2 victory.
And while the Orioles were three outs away from cruising to a win and granting starter Chris Tillman, who turned in a dominant eight-inning outing, his 15th win, Friday's victory showed the O's mettle as they overcame closer Jim Johnson's blown save to gain ground in the playoff hunt.
"These kind of games, this is what the playoffs are going to be like," said Davis, who now has an astounding 108 RBIs. "One-run games, close games, all the way to the end. The fact that we were able to battle back and get the win in the end was huge."
The victory, coupled with the Red Sox loss in Kansas City, moves the third-place Orioles to 4 1/2 back of the American League East leaders and keeps them in the thick of the AL Wild Card race. A perfect 3-0 in the middle leg of a three-city West Coast road trip, the Orioles are 13 games over .500 -- one shy of a season high -- for the first time since July 23 as the team is playing some of its best baseball at a critical juncture.
"I was talking to someone on the bench, it's kind of like that game we had in Boston last year," said Johnson, who stranded runners on the corners with one out after allowing Hunter Pence's RBI. "Not as many innings as [that game] went, but where I blew it and then we came back and scored right away. And I kind of feel like we got on a good rhythm after that, so hopefully that's kind of a momentum booster for the rest of the season. That's the way you got to look at it. I'm not going to dwell on it."
Tasked to preserve a one-run lead Johnson suffered his seventh blown save of the season and first since July 5, snapping a stretch of 10 successful conversions to send the game into extras. The league leader in saves (39) Johnson's bid for 40 fell short as he allowed a leadoff single and walk before Pence's game-tying RBI.
"Jimmy competes," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Johnson holding his ground to retire the final three batters of the ninth. "That's why you trust him. A lot of closers I've seen, if something like that happens, you don't like the results."
Davis made sure the Orioles would. Things got started when Manny Machado, on the one-year anniversary of his big league debut, gave the O's their first hit since the third inning with his second double of the night off Lopez in the 10th. The Giants intentionally walked red-hot Adam Jones, who drove in Machado earlier in the game for a first-inning run, to get to Davis, and he rewarded that effort by driving a ball into the right-center field gap.
"I think I've had some pretty bad at bats against lefties the last few games, but when it comes time in a clutch situation right there, as a hitter, you think the guy is going to be aggressive and throw strikes," said Davis, who scored a tack-on run on Matt Wieters' single. "You obviously don't want to get behind, so you want to get on those guys early."
"You never want to put more guys on base, but my job is to get those lefties out and I've been pretty good at it for the last few years," said Lopez. "I had full confidence that I'm able to do that and Bochy thought the same way. Ultimately, it came down to one pitch, not finishing it, and Chris Davis did what he's been doing all year, put a good swing on it."
The Giants had just one good swing off Tillman, as the righty put on another dominant display, holding San Francisco to one run over eight innings. Tillman allowed a solo homer to Brandon Belt in an otherwise impressive 112-pitch outing that included a career-high nine strikeouts.
""It's something we knew he was capable of," Showalter said of Tillman, who retired 14 in a row at one point and has established himself as one of the team's frontline starters. "We thought in the offseason we needed one of our guys to kind of pop and go to the next level and I think Chris is in the process of doing that."
Tillman was masterful against a punchless Giants lineup, striking out the side after putting runners on first and second to start the second inning en route to five consecutive strikeouts. After Belt let loose on a full-count changeup for a solo homer in the sixth, snapping a stretch of 14 retired, Tillman followed that up by sending Buster Posey down on strikes to end the frame.
"Everything was there for me," Tillman said. "My offspeed was there, I didn't need my changeup as much tonight as I have in the past and fastball command was there for the most part. It helped me get ahead and stay ahead through the count throughout the game. Just trusting [Wieters]. Have a lot of confidence in him. He makes it easy for us."
The Orioles scored immediately on Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong to give Tillman a quick two-run cushion. Jones delivered an RBI single in the first and J.J. Hardy pushed the early lead to two with a leadoff blast in the second inning to mark his 20th homer of the year. Hardy is now the third Orioles shortstop to record three consecutive seasons with 20 or more homers, joining Miguel Tejada and Cal Ripken, Jr.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.