The Orioles’ bullpen was stellar again tonight in a 2-0 win over the Red Sox, turning in three scoreless and hitless innings behind starter Chris Tillman. The only baserunner coming on a hit batter by closer Jim Johnson.
“Chris allowed that to happen,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It’s not very often he has four or five walks. He made a lot of good pitches. He was frustrated. We were trying to get the seventh out of him, but didn’t get off to a good start. Bullpen pitched well again against a tough lineup. They grind every at-bat.”
Tillman walked four over six scoreless innings, but he retired eight in a row before a leadoff double in the seventh ended his night.
Four walks in the first four innings might have caused Tillman’s start to unravel in previous seasons, but not anymore.
“There’s two sides of it,” Showalter said. “You say he’s got a better feel and he can get himself back in sync, but if that was the case, why would he ever get out of it to start with? But you’ve got to be careful. Every spot in their lineup is potential... You can’t ever drop your guard. I think more than anything, Chris doesn’t do that. He keeps pitching.
“I think Matt (Wieters) has a lot to do with that, too. Changeup he got a big out with in a 3-1 count, and a couple others. He’s really showing himself to be more of a pitcher than a thrower.”
Tillman turned in what resembled the start of a crafty veteran.
“I said it in the spring,” Showalter said. “Chris came in fully aware that he was out of options, but he pitched like a guy who had three and didn’t want to go to Norfolk. And that shows a lot of maturity, because he wanted to be a guy for us this year, and he has been so far.”
Manny Machado had three more hits, including two doubles to increase his major league-leading total to 30.
“He’s tough to defend,” Showalter said. “When people try to play guys where he’s going to hit, he’s tough to pitch to, he’s tough to defend. If you’re in the dugout up the runway after an at-bat he’s not happy with... it’s not your typical 20-year-old. He’s got a lot of maturity about him.
“A lot of guys try to get big when things get a little challenging. He gets shorter, which is really good.”
The Orioles are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season. They’re 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for the lead in the American League East. And Showalter isn’t paying much attention to any of it.
“I try not to, especially when we’ve lost a couple,” he said. “It just keeps you grounded on what you have to do every day, and those things take care of themselves. I did look, after tonight we’re 13, 14 games away from the halfway point. So that kind of gives you an idea of how much baseball is ahead of us.”
It’s going to be good if the bullpen keeps putting up zeros, as Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter and Johnson did tonight after pitching last night.
“Tommy’s had some less-than-one-inning stints, 20-some pitches, but they were clean outings. He and Darren both. And Jim Johnson,” Showalter said.
“Fifth or sixth inning, I felt this big presence over my shoulder. It was Jimmy going, ‘You know, I’m good tonight.’ Because of the way they’ve pitched and how efficient, they were available today. They all made sure I was aware of that in the outfield today.”