ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Chris Tillman wouldn’t concede that today’s start against the Rays held more importance than previous outings due to his continuing struggles. He wasn’t influenced by the jump in ERA from 5.59 to 8.39 over his past three games. He could distance himself from any perceived separators.
“Not at all,” he said. “A start is a start is a start. I’ve made a lot of them in my career. A lot of bad ones, a lot of good ones.
“It’s such a fine line between a bad start and a good start. I think it’s just a matter of a few pitches here and there and a little different look out of your hand, and these short starts are good starts. It’s right there in front of us. We’ve just got to take it.”
Tillman has registered an 8.39 ERA and 2.168 WHIP in nine starts this season, with 64 hits allowed and 22 walks in 39 2/3 innings. He’s surrendered 19 runs and 26 hits in 10 2/3 innings in his last three starts, with seven walks and five home runs.
Familiarity comes into play today, with Tillman making his 26th start against the Rays to break a tie with the Blue Jays for the most he’s had against any team.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “On any given day, if I have my stuff, then it doesn’t really matter. And if I don’t, then it does matter. That’s it. There are no secrets anymore. There hasn’t been for a couple of years.”
Tillman is 8-10 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.186 WHIP in 146 2/3 innings against the Rays. He’s 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA and 0.928 WHIP in 11 starts at Tropicana Field spanning 69 innings.
Evan Longoria is 19-for-63 (.302) with four doubles, a triple and eight home runs against Tillman. Steven Souza Jr. is 6-for-20 (.300) with a double and home run and Logan Morrison is 6-for-14 (.429) with a double and triple.
Corey Dickerson is 2-for-14 (.143) with a double.
Tillman had no idea what I meant yesterday when I referred to “the streak,” except that I wasn’t referencing Cal Ripken Jr. because I didn’t say “The Streak.” He wasn’t hung up on the 1924 Phillies and the 20 consecutive starts allowing at least five runs.
“The what?” he asked, making me repeat it again. “I didn’t even know what you were talking about, to tell you the truth. I personally didn’t. There might be someone in here who did, but I didn’t know about it.
“It sucks, but you know what? I feel like we’re right there. So close. The more we nick and knack and nag and pound on each other, it ain’t going to get any better. You’ve got to keep going, got to keep fighting. I feel like everyone’s real, real close. You’re talking two or three pitches away from having good starts as opposed to bad starts.”
Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi is alternating them. In his last four starts, he’s logged 2 1/3, 6 2/3, 4 1/3 and seven innings. Three runs allowed in each of them.
Odorizzi has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of his 13 starts. He’s facing the Orioles for the first time in 2017 after going 3-4 with a 5.15 ERA and 1.445 WHIP in 14 career games against them over 73 1/3 innings.