Another look at the starters

Chris Tillman turned in his 16th quality start in 24 outings yesterday before the blown save, the 14 innings, the gut-wrenching loss that completed Arizona's three-game sweep of the Orioles.

The Orioles have posted seven quality starts in the last nine games, giving them a 2.88 ERA in that stretch. That's the good.

Unfortunately, the starters have gone more than six innings in only three of the 12 games this month. Tillman was removed after the sixth yesterday, leaving a tired bullpen to cover the last three innings in regulation.

Tillman threw only 104 pitches. Manager Buck Showalter mentioned on "O's Xtra" how Tillman was working on four days' rest and would be doing so again in the right-hander's next outing.

Now, we can debate whether the starters need to be pushed harder. It's a noble idea to keep guys fresh, especially with only one off-day in September, but the Orioles have five this month. Tillman had thrown 112 pitches in his previous start and 102 before that, so it's not like he's been put in harm's way.

Tillman hasn't thrown more than 117 pitches this season, in a July 21 game in Texas. Wei-Yin Chen hasn't thrown more than 119, and he spent two months on the disabled list.

Miguel Gonzalez has topped out at 111 pitches. He's thrown 68, 86, 99 and 97 in his last four starts. Scott Feldman has topped out at 110 in seven starts with the Orioles. Bud Norris has thrown 104, 95 and 98 in three starts since being acquired from the Astros, plus 14 yesterday in his second career relief appearance.

Jason Hammel hasn't exceeded 113 pitches this season. He's currently on the disabled list and will attempt to throw Friday at Camden Yards.

The Orioles don't have a complete game since June 2012. Their starters have completed eight innings in eight games this season, with Tillman accounting for three.

I checked the collective bargaining agreement and complete games are still allowed.

Here's another look at the starters this month:

Aug. 1: Norris, six innings
Aug. 2: Tillman, 5 1/3
Aug. 3: Feldman, 4 2/3
Aug. 4: Chen, seven
Aug. 6: Norris, six
Aug. 7: Gonzalez, six
Aug. 9: Tillman, eight
Aug. 10: Chen, six
Aug. 11: Norris, five
Aug. 12: Feldman, 5 1/3
Aug. 13: Gonzalez, seven
Aug. 14: Tillman, six

Gonzalez allowed two runs in the seventh in his last start, hastening his exit.

Chen tends to suddenly lose his command in the later innings. He's got a 2.14 ERA in the first-through-third innings, 2.79 in the fourth-through-sixth and 9.39 in the seventh-through-eighth.

My point, which has been dragged out, is that the bullpen can't remain effective when it's constantly being tapped into by Showalter. And he's among the best managers I've seen at handling a 'pen. It's not like he's all thumbs.

Francisco Rodriguez and Darren O'Day have worked four of the last five games, Tommy Hunter and Troy Patton three of the last four. Today's off-day should be viewed as a blessing while fans continue to curse yesterday's result.

The starters could provide a huge assist here by going a little longer and rewarding Showalter on the occasions that he allows it.

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