BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter wanted to make sure that his unusual confrontation with Yankees counterpart Joe Girardi didn’t overshadow Chris Tillman’s gem.
Tillman took a three-hitter into the eighth inning and the Orioles beat the Yankees, 4-2, Monday night in the opener of a four-game series with ramifications in the AL wild-card race.
With the victory, the Orioles remained tied with Cleveland and moved within 1½ games of idle Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card. The Yankees fell three games behind Tampa Bay.
Tillman allowed two runs and four hits in seven-plus innings. He walked none and struck out nine, matching his career high. Tillman (16-5) became the Orioles’ first 16-game winner since Mike Mussina won 18 in 1999.
But his performance almost became an afterthought after the skirmish between Showalter and Girardi. Both dugouts emptied briefly after the first inning, when Showalter angrily exchanged words with Girardi after the Yankees manager yelled at Baltimore third base coach Bobby Dickerson, accusing him of stealing signs. Showalter had to be restrained by home plate umpire Ed Hickox as he charged onto the field.
Girardi refused to go into specifics about what set him off, saying, “I'm going to protect our players at all lengths . . . there was something that I saw and I'm just going to leave it at that.’’
Dickerson said he heard Girardi chirping from the dugout.
“I heard something and as I looked at the dugout, he was right there yelling at me from the far end,’’ Dickerson said. “And as I was running off the field, something else was said. And after that it was over.’’
But not before a red-faced Showalter bolted from the first-base dugout, gesturing angrily and shouting at Girardi.
‘‘It strikes a chord in me and I stand accused,’’ Showalter said.
Once order was restored, television cameras showed Showalter shaking his head and glaring at Girardi from the dugout.
‘‘Two competitive good teams and we’re fighting for the same thing, so there’s a small margin for error . . . But Bobby’s not giving pitches,’’ Showalter said.
Baltimore went ahead in the fifth when J.J. Hardy doubled, advanced on Michael Morse’s third-to-first groundout, and scored on Matt Wieters’s sacrifice fly. Alexi Casilla followed with a single, stole second, and scored on Nick Markakis’s single.