Will they always be linked?
Tillman held the Red Sox to two runs over seven innings, walking none for only the second time this season and striking out eight in a 3-2 victory at Fenway Park.
Tillman is 15-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 27 starts. Is he an ace?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I go out every day with the same game plan, whether we’re at home, on the road, playing Boston, New York or someone on the West Coast. It doesn’t matter. I think that’s important. In order to stay consistent, I think that’s what you’ve got to do, focus on what you’ve got to do.”
Tillman is 12-2 in his last 18 starts, and the Orioles are 14-4 in that span.
Perhaps his teammates look at him as the ace.
“That’s the starting pitcher’s goal, for these guys to trust you every time you go out there,” Tillman said.
“No doubt,” said reliever Brian Matusz when asked whether Tillman is an ace. “I mean, a guy that goes out there and throws seven, eight innings every outing, has 15 wins at this point in the season against the American League East. I mean, there’s no doubt to say that he’s an ace.
“He’s been unbelievable for us. He’s been a horse and it’s great to be able to see him get his 15th. He has pitched so well in his last few outings and we weren’t able to finish it out for him, so it was great to see Tilly get the win.”
Tillman is now 8-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 road starts this season. Why so good?
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It’s hard to say, it’s hard to pinpoint. I go into every game with the same mindset and the same goal. I think it’s tough playing on the road. It is. Especially in cities like Boston and New York, and I’m happy with it.”
Asked what 15 wins means to him, Tillman pointed the spotlight toward the clubhouse.
“It’s good for the team,” he said. “For me, it is what it is, but it’s good for the team. Hopefully get in a groove here and carry it over to New York.”
So, 15 wins isn’t a big deal personally?
“It’s big, I think more importantly for the team,” he said. “This self stuff is kind of eye-wash to me. It was big to get that win tonight and going to New York with a happy clubhouse.”
Manager Buck Showalter thought Tillman emptied the tank in the seventh while retiring the Red Sox in order, finishing at 111 pitches.
“I always want to come back out,” Tillman said. “I never take the approach that this is my last hitter, my last at-bat, the last inning. I think as a starting pitcher, it’s your goal to get as deep as you possibly can in the game. That’s my mindset throughout.”
Matusz struck out David Ortiz to end the eighth and strand a runner. Ortiz is now 1-for-19 with 11 strikeouts lifetime vs. Matusz.
“Those previous at bats don’t mean anything going into today,” Matusz said. “Obviously, Ortiz is one of the best hitters in the league. You’ve got to respect that. So, I just went out there and attacked the zone. Went out there with no regrets.
“To be honest I’m not sure what David’s thinking up there. My focus is just to go out and attack the zone and I was able to do that today.”