OAKLAND, Calif. - Now what?
That question can be pinned on so many different lapels. But I was referencing Chris Tillman, who followed up his seven scoreless innings by retiring only three batters last night in Anaheim and being charged with seven runs.
Tillman’s ERA is up to 9.24 and the Orioles have the option of skipping him with Monday’s off-day. Otherwise, they can push everyone back again, as they did after the rainout.
Or they take more drastic measures.
Fans were blowing up Twitter last night demanding to know why Tillman got another start. I kept trying to explain that he was coming off a one-hit shutout over seven innings, he had good career numbers against the Angels, the Orioles have $3 million invested in him, it’s early May, no one else is a proven upgrade.
They’re not excuses. They’re explanations. Note the difference.
Please stop suggesting Hunter Harvey. He hadn’t pitched above low Single-A Delmarva until this season. He’s made four starts at Double-A Bowie and last night he allowed four runs and six hits with two walks in four innings. He’s been stretched out to four innings in his last two starts. It’s still too early to plug him into a major league rotation.
If you want to focus on Bowie’s rotation, check out left-hander Keegan Akin. Twelve strikeouts over six innings in his last start, 31 in 27 innings this season. A 3.33 ERA in five starts, with stuff that one person in the organization told me definitely will play in the majors. He’s healthy now and most definitely on the radar.
In the meantime, life for the Orioles would be much simpler if Tillman represented their only concern. They were no-hit through five innings last night by Jaime Barria, making his third major league start. The bullpen still can’t stop the bleeding. Dylan Bundy has been roughed up in his last two starts, and he’s the ace.
Chris Davis had an RBI single last night and looks better at the plate since his weekend benching. Manny Machado looks like he’s worth multiple top prospects despite his pending free agent status. Jonathan Schoop begins his injury rehab assignment tonight at Double-A Bowie and could come off the disabled list on Tuesday.
That’s all I’ve got.
* The Orioles split a four-game series in Oakland last summer after going 1-3 in 2016. They haven’t swept a three-game series there since 2005. Rodrigo Lopez, Bruce Chen and Eric DuBose were the winning pitchers.
(DuBose’s claim to fame is being charged with a DUI in Fort Lauderdale in March 2005, failing the sobriety test and, according to the police report, telling the officer, “I’m from Alabama and they have a different alphabet.”)
The Orioles will face three right-handers in the series, leading to guesses on how manager Buck Showalter will craft his lineups. Does he return Pedro Álvarez to third base, as he did last night, while using Mark Trumbo as the designated hitter? Does Danny Valencia get any starts at third base, with Álvarez the designated hitter and Trumbo playing right field?
There isn’t much of a history with Daniel Mengden, who’s 7-14 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.368 WHIP in 27 starts spread over parts of three seasons. The Orioles haven’t faced him.
Check the splits. Right-handers are hitting .338/.370/.559 against Mengden this year and left-handers are hitting .212/.209/.288. But over his career, right-handers have hit .273/.335/.441 and left-handers have hit .262/.310/.416.
Control doesn’t seem to be an issue with Mengden, who’s walked only four batters this season in 32 2/3 innings. He’s surrendered only two home runs.
Only two Orioles have batted against Mengden. Colby Rasmus is 0-for-3 and on the disabled list. Valencia is 0-for-1 with a walk.
Andrew Cashner has registered a 3.93 ERA and 1.200 WHIP in four career games (three starts) against the Athletics. He’s never pitched in Oakland.
Matt Joyce is 3-for-7 with two home runs against Cashner. Khris Davis is 4-for-12 with a double.
Meanwhile, I’ve been asked numerous times in conversations and radio and television interviews why I chose Oakland over Anaheim on this road trip. As if I must have undergone a lobotomy as part of my last physical.
I didn’t want to rent a car. Haven’t been to Anaheim in more years than I can remember and Oakland provides a comfort zone of sorts despite being the worst ballpark in the majors. And no, I’m not staying in San Francisco and taking the BART every day. My hotel is in Oakland, a reasonable distance from the ballpark and airport.
Maybe they did sneak in a lobotomy while my back was turned, though there must be a better technique.
They drew blood and I drew the short straw.
* Nick Markakis hit his fifth home run yesterday as part of a 3-for-4 afternoon in the Braves’ 11-0 win over the Mets. He’s batting .336 with a .958 OPS in the final season of the four-year, $44 million deal he signed after negotiations with the Orioles broke down amidst concerns about pending disk surgery in his neck.
Markakis is three home runs away from matching last summer’s total and eight from matching his Braves high in 2016, but it’s never really been about his power. He’s posted on-base percentages of .370, .346,.354 and .429 with the Braves and he played in 156, 158 and 160 games the first three seasons.
I’d gladly slot him atop the order, as long as there’s no prototypical leadoff hitter on the roster.