NEW YORK - So much for the Orioles having too many starters for their rotation.
Manager Buck Showalter has mentioned the need for depth in case a pitcher is knocked out of a game with an injury. He usually talks about a line drive up the middle, not stiffness in an elbow, but his point is made.
We won’t know the severity of Chris Tillman’s injury until later today or after the team arrives in Toronto, but the timing is both good and bad.
The good: The roster has expanded this month, with Zach Britton and Jason Hammel expected to rejoin the rotation this week. Jake Arrieta will be called up, as well, and the bullpen will include former starters Randy Wolf, Tommy Hunter and Steve Johnson. Showalter has plenty of alternatives if Tillman must be skipped.
The bad: Tillman was 6-1 with a 3.67 ERA and five quality starts in his last eight outings. He’s become an important part of this rotation. The Orioles don’t want to lose him while trying to overtake the Yankees for first place in the American League East.
Tillman’s fastball was mostly 89-92 mph today. It dipped to 89 on Chris Dickerson’s two-run homer that provided the only scoring off Tillman in three innings.
He appeared to be favoring his leg after racing to cover first base, but it’s the elbow that forced him out of the game.
Tillman’s turn comes up again on Friday against the Yankees, but Wei-Yin Chen is expected to pitch that night on extra rest with Hammel tentatively scheduled to start on Thursday. Tillman could start on Saturday, Joe Saunders could take the ball on regular rest, or Showalter could choose someone else.
How’s that for narrowing it down?
Wolf retired the Yankees in order without allowing a ball out of the infield in the fourth inning. He won one of his last 20 starts with the Brewers before they released him.
The Orioles will try to leave Tillman with a no-decision today. Mark Reynolds led off the top of the fifth inning with his 15th home run to reduce the Yankees’ lead to 2-1. Chris Davis and Nick Markakis singled and were stranded.
The Orioles have left four runners on base in five innings.
Update: Reynolds really didn’t want Tillman to absorb the loss today.
Reynolds produced the 17th multi-homer game of his career, his third this season and his second in this series. His three-run shot in the sixth inning gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead.
The inning began with a Nate McLouth walk and Adam Jones single. Matt Wieters singled to score McLouth and Reynolds followed with another tape-measure homer.
Eight of Reynolds’ 16 home runs this season have come since Aug. 8.
The Yankees had taken a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth on Nick Swisher’s two-out single off Wolf, who walked Dickerson to begin the inning. Walks continue to hurt the Orioles in this series.
Update II: Wolf allowed one run and three hits in 3 1/3 innings, with one walk and one strikeout. He threw 30 of his 49 pitches for strikes.
Wolf was making his sixth career relief appearance. He’s in line for his first victory since July 17.
Luis Ayala replaced Wolf in the seventh with a runner on first and one out. Ayala, who had let 18 of 35 inherited runners score, hit Jayson Nix before inducing a double play grounder from Derek Jeter.
Anyone notice that J.J. Hardy is having another outstanding day in the field after yesterday’s costly error?
The Orioles are 57-0 when leading after the seventh inning and 56-14 when scoring four runs or more. They’re ahead 5-3 in the top of the eighth.
Reynolds is 3-for-4 with two homers and a single.
I’ve added Steve Johnson to the above list of starter candidates. Thanks to the readers who pointed out my omission.
Update III: Yankees manager Joe Girardi used five pitchers in the top of the eighth inning. Derek Lowe walked Robert Andino with the bases loaded to increase the lead to 6-3, and Markakis followed with a two-run single off Boone Logan.
Cory Wade finally got the last two outs.
Who’s next, Jeff Nelson? Tanyon Sturtze?
Markakis has three hits today. Yes, I’d leave him in the leadoff spot. Until he announces his retirement.
Update IV: The bullpen held the Yankees to one run over the last six innings, and the Orioles emerged with an 8-3 win.
The Orioles have won all three series in the Bronx for the first time since 1976. They outscored the Yankees, 49-32, in eight games here.
The Orioles are 58-0 when leading after the seventh. They head to Toronto only two games behind the Yankees in the American League East.