Orioles manager Buck Showalter found out on Friday that pitcher Chris Tillman might be named as a replacement for Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander in the All-Star Game. It depended whether Verlander made his start today.
“Proud of Chris Tillman today,” Showalter said after the Orioles’ 7-4 win over the Blue Jays that completed the first half. “Got to give him the golf clap in the locker room today. I was watching TV at 1:08 when Verlander threw his first pitch. Then he could call his mom and dad.
“Rick (Adair) and I were checking the weather in Detroit today, making sure it wasn’t going to rain. It was tough for Chris because he made plans to do some things over the break. Obviously, he changed them. I’ve never been such a fan of good weather in Detroit. I sat there watching Verlander warm up. It’s a great moment for him, and he deserves it. He’s been solid for us.
“He’s not a secret, I can tell you that, around the league. A lot of people were on him. He wasn’t drafted here. He got here in a trade. Somebody else is real smart. Not me, but somebody was smart getting him here. We’re lucky to have him. He’s got an interesting future.”
So does Chris Davis, who homered in his fourth straight game and raised his RBI total to 93 at the break.
“You think about batting order, you think about so many different things,” Showalter said. “I’m trying to keep the same whatever’s going on - same water, same pregame. He’s in a routine, and players are creatures of habit. Chris, it’s been an honor to watch the first 96 games. We wish him well. We hope the effort of our five guys is very meaningful late in October, whether or not they win a game.”
Davis’ 93 RBIs are the most by an Oriole since Nick Markakis collected 101 in 2009. And Davis is only at the break.
Davis hit his sixth homer to left field today. He’s hit seven to left-center, six to center, nine to right-center and nine to right.
“You can’t shift to the stands,” Showalter said. “We’ve done our share of moving toward tendencies, but they don’t allow you to put anybody out there. So hit it where the grass doesn’t grow. He’s got that type of... where he doesn’t feel like he has to hurry. If they stay in one pattern and one place, he’ll make them pay. He’s got a good swing. I’m proud of the fact that he’s hitting .300. Obviously his contact-to-damage ratio is very good.”
Scott Feldman was pretty good today, earning his first win as an Oriole by allowing three runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts.
Feldman left to a rousing ovation.
“He was pitching so well,” Showalter said. “You’re so careful about changing the karma of a game. And that was sticky, hot. He was a good matchup for the challenges you have on a day like this. I’d like to think I was going to let him start the inning so I could let him get an ovation, but our fans respect what Scotty did today. He’s pitched two out of three good games, and one where he didn’t quite have command of his breaking ball. That’s the type of professionally pitched outing we hope to get with him, and all our guys.”
Showalter described Feldman as “a veteran guy that can pitch. He uses people’s aggressiveness against them. Spinning the ball for a strike. Our curiosity is going to be satisfied, and we’re all going to have a good seat to watch it.”
Starting pitching remains a key to the second half, but Showalter added, “You have to do a lot of other things well, too.”
“It’s a given that the other four teams in our division are going to be good and do things,” Showalter said. “There are some things we can get better at. Our guys will be the first to say that.”
The Orioles are 53-43 heading into the break. Lots of baseball left.
“We’ve got 66 games left?” Showalter asked. “Grinding like heck through the season, all the challenges, and now we’ve got a chance to roll the dice with 66 games and let’s see if we can play in October. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve positioned ourselves to have a chance to compete for that opportunity.”
Showalter confirmed that Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Tillman will start the three games in Texas following the break, and added that he’ll talk to pitching coach Rick Adair about the last two spots, which currently belong to Jason Hammel and Feldman.
“I like our five guys,” Showalter said. “They’re going to compete and give us a chance.”
The Orioles improved their series record to 18-9-4. They committed only one error on the homestand and continue to lead the majors with a .991 fielding percentage