A few days ago, MASN replayed Game 2 of the 1983 American League Championship Series. The Orioles defeated the White Sox 4-0 at Memorial Stadium, and Mike Boddicker put on a pitching clinic with 14 strikeouts while going the distance.
Sammy Stewart and Tippy Martinez warmed in the bullpen, but it was Boddicker’s game.
A year later, he would win 20 of them in the regular season.
Quick, name the last 20-game winner for the Orioles? If you need a hint, refer to my previous sentence.
It hasn’t been done here since Boddicker went 20-11 in 1984. The gap seems especially wide because Orioles pitchers have produced 24 20-win seasons, including 23 in the past 45 years, which is more than any other major league team.
At least one Orioles pitcher won 20 or more games from 1968 through 1980, a span of 13 years, which is a major league record. The old standard was 12 by the New York Giants from 1903 to 1914. Christy Mathewson did the heavy lifting, reaching the milestone in every season.
It was more of a group effort with the Orioles.
Here’s the list of 20-game winners in franchise history:
1963: Steve Barber (20-13)
1968: Dave McNally (22-10)
1969: Mike Cuellar (23-11), Dave McNally (20-7)
1970: Jim Palmer (20-10), Mike Cuellar (24-8), Dave McNally (24-9)
1971: Pat Dobson (20-8), Jim Palmer (20-9), Mike Cuellar (20-9), Dave McNally (21-5)
1972: Jim Palmer (21-10)
1973: Jim Palmer (22-9)
1974: Mike Cuellar (22-10)
1975: Mike Torrez (20-9), Jim Palmer (23-11)
1976: Wayne Garland (20-7), Jim Palmer (22-13)
1977: Jim Palmer (20-11)
1978: Jim Palmer (21-12)
1979: Mike Flanagan (23-9)
1980: Scott McGregor (20-8), Steve Stone (25-7)
1984: Mike Boddicker (20-11)
Could Chris Tillman join the list? Could he end the 20-game winner drought?
Tillman is 14-3 in 22 starts this season. He’s lost once since May 19. He’s won 11 of his last 12 decisions.
Too soon to think about crashing the 20-win club?
“Yeah, yeah,” Tillman replied. “I think it’s always too soon. That could be 19 and three-quarters and it’s still too soon for me.
“It’s not something I really focus on. I just try to go out and... I’ve got other goals in mind right now. I think, worry about those for the most part and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Tillman apparently didn’t know or remember that Boddicker was the last Oriole to win 20.
“I haven’t been paying attention, really,” he said. “That’s the last thing I’ve looked up, to tell you the truth.
“It’s a long time. It’s not something that’s easy to do, and I think it shows it’s not only the pitching. There’s a lot that goes into it - hitting, defense - and I think that says where we are.”
Also, the bullpen.
“Exactly,” Tillman said.
Consider that Mike Mussina twice won 19 games and 18 games with the Orioles.
“Oh yeah, 100 percent,” Tillman said. “It’s a huge puzzle, and a lot of pieces to the puzzle have to all come together. I’ve always had a great defense behind me, and Wiety (Matt Wieters) and (Taylor) Teagarden catching me. There’s a lot of things that come together to win a baseball game and they’ve been coming together for me lately.”
That’s especially true on the road, where Tillman is 7-1 with a 3.23 ERA and five quality starts in nine outings this season. But in his only career start against the Giants, his opponent Friday night, Tillman allowed six runs and six hits over two innings and suffered the loss on June 14, 2010.
Tillman was 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA after that start. He was a different pitcher, more of a thrower. And the Orioles were a different team, with Corey Patterson leading off, Ty Wigginton playing second base, Garrett Atkins playing first base, Lou Montanez, Julio Lugo and Scott Moore coming off the bench, and relievers Jason Berken, Matt Albers, Frank Mata and David Hernandez following Tillman to the mound.
Tell me that you’ve thought about Frank Mata in the last year or two and I’ll challenge you on it.