PITTSBURGH - Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the team was down a reliever tonight and suggested that the disabled list could come into play.
Brad Brach, Brian Matusz and Ryan Webb pitched tonight and Troy Patton warmed up in the eighth. Darren O’Day appeared to be fine in the clubhouse.
Zach Britton had his right ankle wrapped after the game, but it could be routine maintenance. Tommy Hunter wasn’t in the clubhouse while reporters were conducting interviews.
Preston Guilmet could be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk if he’s replacing an injured player. He threw 13 pitches tonight. Heath Bell, who’s not on the 40-man roster, also threw 13 pitches while allowing an unearned run.
Brach may have to be optioned after throwing 47 pitches over four innings tonight, though Showalter wants to find a way to keep him.
Brach spared the bullpen some wear and tear after replacing starter Chris Tillman with no outs in the second inning. Tillman was charged with six earned runs (eight total) and six hits, with three walks and one strikeout.
“Fastball command,” Tillman said. “Got myself into trouble early. I just didn’t have the fastball command you’d like.
“I walked the first batter and fell behind to (Andrew) McCutchen, made a good pitch and he hit it. Try to limit the damage from there. But I wasn’t able to locate the fastball, fastball command on both sides, really. You kind of get yourself in trouble when you can’t locate.”
Tillman said the groin wasn’t bothering him. There’s nothing wrong physically.
“No, its good,” he said. “I felt good last start and felt good in my side session in between, and I felt good today.”
Fatigue also wasn’t a factor, he said, following his complete-game shutout in Kansas City.
“No, I felt fine,” he said. “I felt fine in the bullpen and for the short time I was out there.”
Tillman has allowed 11 runs in the first inning this season.
“I’ve just got to find it early,” he said. “All season long, I’ve been struggling early and then trying to find my way through. But I’ve just got to recognize what’s going on early and maybe find it in the bullpen. Something like that. But it comes down to fastball command. I’m falling behind with the fastball. I’m trying to throw fastballs for strikes.”
Unfortunately for Tillman, he couldn’t make an adjustment in the second inning, which he’s done in the past.
“Coming off a good one, tried to carry it over and kind of get in rhythm here, but it was tough. I tried to make the adjustments, but it just wasn’t coming to me,” he said.
Frustration also came from wasting the Orioles’ six-run second inning.
“Yeah, it’s always a big thing as a pitcher,” he said. “(When they) go out and score runs, put up a zero. Like I’ve said, the fastball command, it always comes back to it.”
Catcher Caleb Joseph put it in simple terms: Tillman just didn’t have his good stuff.
“A little bit up in the zone,” Joseph said. “Nothing really more to say. Not one person is worried about Tilly in this clubhouse. He just didn’t have his best stuff tonight.
“We were just in damage control mode at that point. Lot of times, you get a couple breaks here and there and the damage control kind of works itself out. Tonight, we got a few bleeders that kind of found some holes and you can’t do anything about that. Maybe locate the ball down better. It wasn’t like he was getting tattooed everywhere. Just bad luck I guess.
“He was obviously having some command issues right away and then kind of found himself and had a bleeder. It’s one start out of his 33 or whatever he makes every year. He’s going to be better next time.”
Tillman’s teammates are accustomed to seeing him bounce back after a rough first inning and grind through the middle innings, but it didn’t happen tonight.
“He’s usually able to bounce back in other starts and we were hoping for that,” said Nelson Cruz, who hit his 14th homer and drove in three runs. “Today wasn’t his day. Hopefully, his next start he’ll come back and pitch like he’s used to.”
Manager Buck Showalter noted how Tillman has “spoiled us at a high level of pitching.”
“He struggled before early and got back in sync and gave us some strong innings, but it never really came to him tonight,” Showalter said.
“His track record, and you trust that. Pittsburgh had something to do with it, too. This team’s been in the playoffs and they swung the bats. What mistakes he did make were he failed to command. I’ve seen them score early and all of a sudden he gets back into sync. It never came to him tonight. He never got a feel for it.”
Brach drew praise from his manager for going a career-high four innings and not allowing a run.
“It was huge,” Showalter said. “We were able to stay away from some guys, and Brad, that’s what we hoped he would be able to do for us. We were hoping there wasn’t a need for it, but it presented itself tonight, and that’s why we were able to get back into the ballgame.”
Brach won’t be available for a few days, which makes him vulnerable to a roster move on Thursday.
“That’s something we were talking about before,” Showalter said. “I’d like to keep him if I can. I think he’s thrown 48 this year, and today, he was less than that. I think it’s the innings more than the pitch count. I know if I asked him what he’d say.”
Showalter alluded to the possibility of a DL move with another reliever.
“I don’t know. We’re going to look at it tomorrow and make sure we have some potential coverage,” he said.
“It’s hard to tell until we get our arms around it tonight. I’m not going to give you right now who it is. You can probably figure it out because they didn’t pitch. Some things crop up during the day. That’s why so many times, things may look one way going into the day, and then by the time BP and the game’s over, you’ve got a different situation and you’ve got to adjust.”
The Orioles have scored 23 runs in their past three games, losing two of them. They went 3-3 on the road trip.
“We swung the bats,” Showalter said. “You had two early exits from starters and it became a game out of the bullpen. They pushed one across late. Our guys had a couple of opportunities to score even more, but I can’t fault the offense. The grind effort of the offense and the job that Brad did gave us a chance to win a ballgame. We’ll take our chances there.
“I wouldn’t say it was what we hoped for on the road trip, but we go home for a few days and then go back out. After this next road trip, we’ll have 35 games on the road and 23 at home, If we can keep grinding and get through that stretch, we’ll see what the season has in store for us.”
Judging by the last three games, there should be plenty of runs.
“Any loss is a loss. We’ve got to focus on what we did positive,” Cruz said. “We scored a few runs and gave the pitchers a chance to throw some good innings. It was a rough first two innings. We shut it down. I think we did a real good job coming back from behind and tying the game. But in the end, like I said, it’s a loss.
“Anytime you lose a game when you score that many runs and lose by one, you feel like you have a chance to score the tying run. But we’re focusing on what we did positive. We scored a few runs. The bullpen threw pretty well. Tomorrow we’ve got a new series and we’ve got to focus on that.”