Arlington, Texas — This night wasn't supposed to be about Chris Tillman.
Making his return from a three-start demotion to Triple-A Norfolk, Tillman was supposed to be a footnote Saturday: The unlucky kid who had to oppose Cliff Lee in the lefty ace's first start as a Texas Ranger after being traded by Seattle on Friday.
Midway through the Orioles' 6-1 victory against the Rangers -- their third straight in Texas -- it became clear that the spotlight had shifted 180 degrees.
While Lee struggled in his new digs, yielding a season-high three homers and five runs in nine innings, Tillman was nearly perfect in his first big-outing since June 14.
Tillman (1-3) retired nine straight before allowing a leadoff walk in the fourth to Elvis Andrus. He then set down 10 more before Ian Kinsler singled to the left-side hole with one out in the seventh.
It broke up the potential no-hitter for the 21-year-old Tillman, who already has one this season: On April 28 for Norfolk against Gwinnett, the first by an Orioles Triple-A farmhand since 1974.
Tillman's bid for history fell short, but he still outpitched Lee and still kept the powerful Rangers off the bases for eight innings.
He lost the shutout in the eighth when David Murphy hit a sinking liner in front of center fielder Adam Jones, who sprinted toward the ball, pulled up momentarily and had it bounce in front of him and roll into deep center.
Murphy chugged around to third base for a single and a two-base error charged to Jones. Murphy then scored when Tillman threw a wild pitch high over the head of catcher Craig Tatum, to cut the lead to 5-1.
Tillman retired the next batter and was pulled after throwing 109 pitches, 68 strikes. Reliever Will Ohman entered and induced groundouts from both batters he faced, which made the lone run scored against Tillman unearned.
Overall, Tillman allowed two hits, one unearned run and one walk while striking out three in 7 1/3 innings.
Not bad for a guy who was 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA in his previous four big-league starts this season. Not bad for a 21-year-old who wasn't supposed to be back in the majors this half, but got the call Saturday because Kevin Millwood went on the disabled this week with a forearm strain.
The announced crowd of 41,093, which included a Rangers Ballpark walk-up record of 14,300 fans, was there primarily to see Lee, who was acquired by the Rangers on Friday along with injured reliever Mark Lowe and cash for first baseman Justin Smoak and three minor leaguers.
Lee's Rangers' debut was an inauspicious one. His first pitch was lined to right by Orioles' leadoff hitter Corey Patterson for a double. Miguel Tejada singled on the next pitch to score Patterson.
Two pitches and Lee, who was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA for the Mariners, was down 1-0.
Lee then retired nine straight before Nick Markakis hit his sixth homer of the season a solo shot that just stayed left of the right-field foul pole.
In the fifth, Lee surrendered another homer, this time to shortstop Cesar Izturis, who hadn't gone deep this year. Izturis' last homer was on Aug. 4, 2009.
The Orioles got to Lee a third time in the sixth when Adam Jones hit a 404-foot bomb to center for his 14th home run of the year.
It was the first time Lee had surrendered three homers this season ÃÂ and all came on 1-1 pitches. The Orioles tacked on another run in the ninth when Jones scored on a double-play ball.
Lee threw a complete game, his sixth of the season. But it wasn't exactly what the Rangers' fans were expecting. He was tagged for six earned runs ÃÂ his second most of the season ÃÂ and nine hits against the team with the worst record in baseball.
The Orioles (28-59) have now won three straight here against the American League West leading Rangers (50-37). The first two were improbable comebacks in the late innings.
But Saturday's win may have been the most unlikely of all in the way it unfolded.
From the first inning, one pitcher was in complete control and the other couldn't hold down a powerful offense.
The much ballyhooed Lee, however, was the one that walked off the mound disappointed on Saturday night.