WASHINGTON -- Heading into this week's interleague series between the Orioles and their neighbors to the south, the Washington Nationals, it wouldn't have been a stretch to call these teams evenly matched.
They had almost identical records, were in the thick of their respective pennant races and were surging. The Orioles had won six of their last seven and the Nationals were winners of seven of their previous eight.
Something had to give.
And after not being able to finish it off in regulation, the Orioles found their tried-and-true separator in the 11th inning on Monday: The long ball.
Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy hit consecutive home runs and Manny Machado added another a few batters later to give the Orioles an 8-2 victory in 11 innings at Nationals Park.
Davis was mired in a 2-for-38 slump before hitting a full-count, 92-mph sinker from Craig Stammen (0-4) to right-center for his 14th homer of the season and first since smacking a walkoff against the Chicago White Sox on June 23.
Hardy followed with a solo shot -- his third of the year -- and after a RBI double by Nick Markakis, Machado made it a six-run inning with his eighth homer of the season and his career-best fifth hit of the night.
Playing in their second consecutive extra-innings game -- they were victorious Sunday in 12 innings at Fenway Park -- the Orioles have won eight of 11 extra-inning games this season while the Nationals are 2-8.
The Orioles (49-40) evened their record to 12-12 in games in Washington since the Nationals (48-40) began playing here in 2005.
Before a bi-partisan announced crowd of 35,126 – the home backers kept drowning out the raucous "Let's Go O's' chants – the Orioles' 26-year-old right-hander Chris Tillman and the Nationals' 25-year-old righty Stephen Strasburg battled in an impressive pitchers' duel.
The Orioles scored first, on a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the fourth inning. It was just the 12th home run Strasburg had allowed in 19 starts this season.
By hitting Strasburg's 95-mph fastball into the right-center stands, Cruz grabbed the major-league lead with 28 home runs. He also padded his majors' RBIs lead with 73 in 88 games.
Last year, when Cruz was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis' performance enhancing drug scandal while with the Texas Rangers, Cruz had 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 109 games. His big-league career highs are 33 homers in 2009 and 90 RBIs in 2012 – he's on pace to obliterate both.
Cruz's homer scored Machado, who had singled. It was one of three hits – two singles and a double – against Strasburg in three at-bats. No other Oriole besides Cruz and Machado reached base against Strasburg in his seven innings.
Strasburg struck out nine and didn't walk a batter. In his two starts against the Orioles in his career -- the first coming in May 2012 -- he has allowed five runs (three earned) in 12 innings while walking one and fanning 17.
And, still, on Monday night Strasburg was handed a no-decision thanks to an equally sharp performance by Tillman. He carried a two-hit shutout into the sixth before giving up a leadoff single to Denard Span and a two-run homer to Nationals' second baseman Anthony Rendon.
It was the 13th homer of the season for Rendon, who is one of the five National League "Final Vote" candidates for the All-Star game.
Tillman's outing started out shakily -- he walked Span on four pitches in the first. He then retired seven straight Nationals before allowing his first hit in the third inning, a single to Strasburg. That kickstarted another run of seven consecutive outs recorded by Tillman, who gave up just two runs on five hits and a walk striking out six.
He also had to settle for a no-decision, but still hasn't lost on the road this season in 11 games. Tillman has posted a quality start -- six innings or more, three runs or fewer -- in five of his last six outings and has dropped his season ERA from 5.20 to 4.11 in that span.
Reliever Darren O'Day threw two scoreless innings and 34 total pitches -- the most the sidearmer has ever tossed in one outing as an Oriole in 176 appearances. T.J. McFarland (2-2) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory.
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