But as has been the case with the Orioles all season, missed chances and poor defense told the real story. Tillman committed one error and his defense committed another costly one behind him in a 4-2 loss to the Yankees in front of 16,451 at Camden Yards.
"It was a shame. He was pitching so well," interim manager Juan Samuel said. "We got the lead there. It was a shame."
The Orioles scored first in a game for the first time since May 30 and held a lead for the longest stretch since May 25. Adam Jones drew a one-out walk in the second inning then stole his third base of the year. With Garret Atkins up, he advanced to third on a wild pitch by Yankees starter CC Sabathia and Atkins delivered a two-out RBI single.
Atkins' hit was the Orioles' 75th two-out RBI of the year. They followed with No. 76 in the third inning on back-to-back-to-back singles by Ty Wigginton, Luke Scott and Jones, after outs by Miguel Tejada and Nick Markakis.
"Our guys put up some runs early on, and it's a lot easier pitching that way," Tillman said. "Just go back there, throw strikes and try to stay ahead. I think we did a good job with that."
The rains started pouring in the top of the fourth inning to put a damper on the O's hot start. Tillman allowed a leadoff single to Robinson Cano, who recorded his third straight three-hit game and is batting .500 against Baltimore this season. He took a big lead at first and Tillman, trying to keep him close to the bag, threw too low for Wigginton and the ball scooted past him. Cano advanced to second, moved to third on a groundout by Jorge Posada and came home on a sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson.
Tillman shook off the error and retired the side in order in the fifth to maintain his 2-1 lead.
"I knew once I got [the curveball] going, it would help me out throughout the game, get me deeper in the ballgame," Tillman said. "I would have liked to get [the changeup] going, but my curveball was just there for me so I stuck with that. Me and [catcher Matt Wieters] kind of rode that out."
Combined with pregame showers, the continuous rain produced poor field conditions, and things unwound for the Orioles.
"The field was absolutely atrocious, to be honest with you," Wigginton said. "It was brutal, but that has no bearing. Both teams have to play on it."
"The tough playing conditions, I think that had a lot to do with it," Tillman added.
Leading off the sixth inning, Mark Teixeira turned a high fastball into a routine ground ball for Julio Lugo. It might have been the poor field conditions that caused the ball to take an awkward hop and skip past Lugo. The play was ruled an error during the game, but was changed to a single after further review.
"It took a hop right there at the line, but I think I could have come up with the ball," Lugo said.
Alex Rodriguez then hit a single to Scott, who misplayed it and allowed Teixeira to reach third. Cano made them pay, hitting a sharp grounder that deflected off the glove of a diving Wigginton and scored Teixeira.
The fielding troubles continued on an easy double-play ball by Posada. Wigginton fielded it, checked Rodriguez at third base, and threw to Izturis to get the out at second. But Izturis' return throw sailed over Wigginton's head and Rodriguez scored.
"The ideal thing was probably to see Izturis come home with it," Samuel said. "He probably would have had a shot there. But I think Wigginton did the right thing."
Despite taking the tough-luck loss, Tillman finished with his first quality start in three outings this year.
"We haven't seen a whole lot of him and our guys just kept going at it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Tillman's counterpart, Sabathia, found an extra gear once he got the lead, and retired the side with two strikeouts in the bottom of the sixth inning. The left-hander got into trouble in the seventh, giving up an infield single to Izturis to lead off the inning, but the Orioles squandered their best chance to tie it when Cano made a diving stop on a line drive by Markakis to hold Izturis on second.
Sabathia turned in the 13th quality start in a row by a pitcher facing the Orioles, and his past four wins have all come against the Birds. The O's miscues dropped them to 1-10 in the season series.
"You can't make a mistake against the Yankees," Lugo said. "That's one of the reasons why they're the best team in the Major Leagues."
Noah Rosenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.