ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - I’m getting ready to check out of my hotel, grab lunch, head to Tropicana Field for the game, drop off my rental car and check into the Marriott hotel inside the Tampa airport.
I’ve got an early-morning flight home tomorrow, but my plans will change if the Orioles lose tonight.
It’s a must-win game for the Orioles if they’ve got any chance of winning the division or hosting a wild card game, not to mention simplifying my travel schedule, which probably isn’t one of their concerns.
I’ve heard arguments from fans and sports-talk hosts that Chris Tillman shouldn’t be starting tonight, that the Orioles should hold him back for a possible one-game playoff Thursday against the Yankees or a wild card game Friday. I say it’s more important to win tonight and get that home game, and keep alive the chance to tie the Yankees in the American League East, instead of looking too far ahead and perhaps winding up in Oakland or Texas.
The Orioles are all about winning the division. The didn’t go wild over clinching a playoff berth, and not only because it happened while they were sitting in the team charter.
As manager Buck Showalter said, Tillman was their best option for tonight. They want this game badly and they’re going with the hot hand - one that’s allowed two earned runs and 10 hits in his last three starts over 20 innings. He’s allowed three earned runs or fewer in his last seven starts, including the outing in New York when he left after three innings with elbow discomfort.
Tillman can join Wei-Yin Chen as the only double-digit winners on the Orioles’ pitching staff. You’d think that a playoff team should have at least two.
A Thursday playoff against the Yankees would create a rotation complication for the Orioles. Showalter isn’t going to pitch Joe Saunders on short rest and Jason Hammel isn’t available before Saturday. It’s Steve Johnson’s turn, but he’s dealing with a sore left knee. Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta are bullpen possibilities.
Yes, Tillman would be an ideal choice, but one game at a time.
The Orioles want to win No. 162. They want Tillman on the mound.