Chris Tillman walked the first two batters he faced today and served up a three-run homer to Jason Castro to quickly fall behind this afternoon at Camden Yards.
Tillman issued a third walk in the inning and received a visit from pitching coach Dave Wallace. He escaped further harm with a strikeout and ground ball, but ran his pitch count to 32 in the process.
The inning brought back memories of his May 1 start against the Pirates, when he threw 49 pitches in the first.
The run damage was greater today, however.
Tillman has allowed seven runs in the first inning and six in the second over his eight starts. He's surrendered none in the third, five in the fourth, three in the fifth and one each in the sixth and seventh.
The three walks in the first inning are one shy of his highest total in a game this season. He issued four free passes over five innings on April 18 in Boston.
The Astros put two more runners on base in the second on back-to-back singles by Jonathan Villar and Jose Altuve, but Tillman escape the jam.
Before today, the starters had registered a 3.04 ERA in 71 innings since April 26 while the Orioles posted a 9-3 record. The rotation's ERA was lowered from 4.87 to 4.21.
Orioles starters allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of the last 12 games. Tillman can build on that streak if he shuts out the Astros the rest of the way.
Nick Markakis grounded out in the bottom of the first. He's trying to extend his 17-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the majors.
Chris Davis, in his first plate appearance since April 25, struck out with the count full.
A win today would give the Orioles consecutive three-game sweeps for the first time since April 22-24 in Toronto and April 29-May 1, 2005 versus Tampa Bay.
Adam Jones is one RBI shy of 500 for his career. Delmon Young is one game shy of 1,000.
Update: Markakis singled with one out in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, one short of his career high.
Markakis has hit safely in 21 of his last 22 games.
Davis singled to right field in the third to load the bases with one out, and Adam Jones delivered a two-run single to reduce Houston's lead to 3-2. Jones has 501 career RBIs.
Tillman stranded two more runners in the third, with David Lough making an acrobatic catch on the warning track in left. He's up to 76 pitches.
Update II: Tillman extended the rotation's streak of allowing three earned runs or fewer to 13 consecutive games, but they're not all quality.
Tillman allowed three runs and four hits in five innings, with five walks, three strikeouts, a home run and a wild pitch. He threw 105 pitches, 61 for strikes.
Tillman has failed to pitch past the sixth inning in his last five starts.