Matthew Taylor: Tillman continuing pitching staff’s success on west coast

Chris Tillman provided the Orioles bullpen with some much-needed rest Thursday night by pitching eight shutout innings against the Angels. In the process, Tillman became only the second Orioles starter to go more than seven innings in 2013, which has left the team’s relievers to carry a heavy early-season load. Coming into the game, the O’s bullpen had pitched a shade more than 42 innings in the previous 13 games.

Tillman averaged 5.2 innings per outing in five starts prior to Thursday. Nevertheless, his eight shutout innings shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Tillman has now pitched three of the last four Orioles games that featured eight or more scoreless frames from the starter. The young righty allowed only one hit in eight shutout innings against the Red Sox on Sept. 28, 2012 and held the Mariners in check on the Fourth of July last season, allowing no earned runs (Seattle got two unearned runs) over 8.1 innings.

It is not altogether common for an Orioles pitcher to go eight innings without allowing an earned run. The O’s had five games last season in which it happened. In addition to Tillman’s two outings, Jason Hammel did so twice - including a complete-game one-hitter against the Braves on June 16 - and Jake Arrieta did it once. Those five games were the most the Orioles have had since 2005, when Rodrigo Lopez (twice), Erik Bedard, Bruce Chen and Daniel Cabrera all went eight innings without allowing an earned run.

Orioles pitchers save their best stuff for the Pacific Time Zone as 10 of the last 20 outings where the starter blanked the opposition for eight or more innings were against the American League West. Four have come against the Angels, the most against any opponent. The first of those four was Chris Waters’ memorable rookie debut on Aug. 5, 2008, when he pitched eight innings of one-hit baseball to help defeat the Angels 3-0.

Is it any surprise that the only Orioles pitcher to take a loss in those 20 games was Jeremy Guthrie? Guthrie, who tended to be a hard-luck hurler during his time in Baltimore, suffered a 3-2 loss to the Mariners on May 31, 2011, after allowing three unearned runs in eight innings of work. The error was his own while covering first base on an Ichiro ground ball that would’ve been the final out of the eighth inning. Instead, Ichiro reached first base, Brendan Ryan singled and Justin Smoak hit a three-run homer.

Nevertheless, Guthrie had four of the last 20 outings by starters who went eight or more innings without allowing an earned run, the most of any O’s pitcher. The other three of course resulted in wins. Tillman’s next start of eight or more scoreless innings, should it occur, would match Guthrie’s efforts.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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