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MIN@BAL: Tillman fans six over five gritty frames

Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn't looking past the next game, even if his club is enjoying a comfortable 9 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East with less than a month to go in the regular season.

"Not now," Showalter said when asked when he would begin resting players in preparation for the playoffs. "We're not there. … Whenever it is, it's not tonight and it won't be tomorrow night and it won't be the next night. And it won't be the next day, either. I'll tell you what, for the next nine days, it's not a thought."

Baltimore is red-hot, having won eight of 10 games on a homestand that wraps up on Thursday against the Reds. As they continue their march toward the postseason, the Orioles look to continue taking care of business against teams like Cincinnati, a club that has all but dropped out of the playoff race.

The Reds hoped that the return of second baseman Brandon Phillips last month would help revive an offense that has been slumping badly since the All-Star break; entering Wednesday, Cincinnati ranked last in the Majors in runs, hits, batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

And Phillips has struggled, batting .138 (8-for-58) with two extra-base hits and four RBIs since his return to the lineup on Aug. 18.

"I think it all comes down to the inactivity, I don't think there's any question," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday. "You take six weeks off and he jumps right back in like he did. That's on us, he wanted -- we knew Brandon wanted to play, but that was in large part our willingness organizationally and my willingness as a manager to say yes. 'Sure, come on back, you played three games after six weeks, come on back.'

"We're in a situation where our season was sitting there in the balance and we needed him. I was willing to take the risk that he might be ineffective when he came back, initially, swinging the bat. I love how he's invested, I really do."

As they're struggling at the plate, the Reds will have a tall order when they face Baltimore's starter for the series finale. Chris Tillman has been sensational since the All-Star break, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.85 ERA in nine second-half starts. The right-hander was 7-5 with a 4.11 ERA before the break.

Tillman has also been fantastic at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where his 2.50 ERA this season would be the best single-season mark by an Orioles pitcher in the history of the ballpark.

Cincinnati will counter with right-hander Mike Leake, who is experiencing an upswing in what has been an up-and-down 2014 campaign. Leake has tossed 13 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts, beating the Braves on Aug. 23 and settling for a no-decision against the Pirates last Friday.

Leake has already established a new career high for strikeouts in a season (141), and looks to set a new career mark in innings pitched on Thursday; he is six shy of tying his career high of 192 1/3.

Reds: Cozart gets treatment for wrist, out until at least Friday
Shortstop Zack Cozart was in Cincinnati for the birth of his first child, a son named Cooper, on Tuesday. Though he was supposed to be back with the team in Baltimore for Thursday's series finale against the Orioles, Cozart remains in Cincinnati and will be unable to play until at least Friday after getting a cortisone shot in his sore right wrist.

A scan of Cozart's wrist indicated no major problems.

"It's not inconsequential, but it's not something that's going to threaten September for him," Price said.

Cozart has had a rough season at the plate, batting .228 with three home runs and 35 RBIs in 129 games. He could, however, be a National League Gold Glove candidate with the stellar defense he's played in 2014.

Orioles: Miller ready for action after hamstring cramp
Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller experienced a left hamstring cramp while throwing his final pitch in Monday's loss to the Twins. He did not throw at all on Tuesday, and was ready to pitch if needed in Wednesday's game against the Reds.

"I'm not really too concerned with it," said Miller, who's injured the hamstring twice before. "It's all as minimal as it could possibly be."

Since coming over from the Red Sox in a Trade Deadline deal, Miller has posted a 1.42 ERA in 13 appearances (12 2/3 innings) for the Orioles.

Worth noting
• The Reds are 1-8 in Interleague road games this season.

• With a victory on Thursday, the Orioles would clinch their third consecutive winning season for the first time since 1992-94.

• Baltimore has won 23 of its last 30 home games dating back to June 30. The Orioles were 19-21 in their first 40 home games this season.

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