Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t ready to decide Chris Tillman’s fate or to make a proclamation hours after the veteran right-hander retired only four batters. An off-day on Monday allows him to play with the rotation. Options are under consideration, but that’s been the case for a while.
Tillman was taken off the hook, at least for tonight, when the Orioles rallied against Ian Kennedy and defeated the Royals 11-6 before an announced crowd of 17,842 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (10-27) won back-to-back games for the first time since April. 5-6 at Yankee Stadium and the first time at home since Aug. 28-30, 2017. They’ve won three series this year.
The 11 runs tonight were the most since they beat the Red Sox 16-3 on Aug. 25, 2017 at Fenway Park.
Tillman served up Salvador Perez’s grand slam in the first before recording an out. He was charged with six runs total, five earned, in 1 1/3 innings to raise his ERA to 10.46.
“We always will look at ways to get better and see how it fits and what the repercussions of that are in other areas,” Showalter said. “You’re always trying to give guys an opportunity and give them as much rope, so to speak, that they can get back on track and it’s been a challenge for Chris.”
Tillman hasn’t gone more than four innings in four of his seven starts and more than two in three of them. In his last two outings, he’s surrendered 13 runs (12 earned) and 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings with four walks and no strikeouts
“We’ll look at it and if there’s an adjustment we’re ready to make and how we’re comfortable how it affects everything else,” Showalter said. “Nobody knows better than Chris and everybody involved that’s not good enough to get us where we need to. He’s had a couple decent games, but it’s just been frustrating for him and us.”
Said Tillman: “I can’t worry about that. I’ve got to focus on what I’ve got to do to get better. That’s the bottom line. I have to. I’ve got to stay focused on the game plan and keep working.
“It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating for me. I can see it, I can feel it. I’m just not getting it done. It’s not good right now. I’ve got to make better pitches, I’ve got to get ahead way more often. It changes quick, but you’ve got to set yourself up for success.”
Miguel Castro should be under consideration for starts later this summer, and perhaps as Tillman’s replacement if a change is made, after shutting out the Royals on four hits over 4 2/3 innings. Castro threw 65 pitches, 43 for strikes.
The Orioles have toyed with the idea of starting Castro, but his effectiveness waned this spring and he’s been invaluable as an all-purpose bullpen arm. The time might be right, however, with the rotation still in need of repairs.
Stretching him out isn’t an issue.
“He always is,” Showalter said when asked if Castro was a consideration to start. “An opportunity to pitch more is to pitch better and that’s what he did. But he’s done that for us. He’s serving a very important role for us down there and by tonight’s example.
“They have to pick the Player of the Game, I guess. I mean, it’s pretty obvious who it was. He was special to watch. In a time of need when you’re able to deliver that is good.”
Left-hander Tanner Scott replaced Castro in the seventh and retired the side in order with two strikeouts, his last pitch clocked at 98.5 mph. He fanned Salvador Perez on a 90 mph slider.
Scott also tossed a scoreless eighth, striking out two, after a leadoff double by Whit Merrifield. He got Alex Gordon with a 98 mph fastball and Cheslor Cuthbert on a 90 mph slider.
“He’s been doing it quite frankly most of the season in Norfolk,” Showalter said. “It’s been fun to watch him. He’ll give up a hit or walk somebody and he gets right back in the saddle. You don’t ambush people up here. They know. They’re watching tape, they know exactly what you’re going to throw. There’s no secrets.
“He was good and athletic. That’s about as much as you’ll see a pitcher be able to pound the strike zone. A lot of strikes thrown. Good, quality strikes, too. “His breaking ball has come a long way. It’s exciting to watch where he is right now.”
The Orioles will discuss whether they need to bring up another pitcher for Friday night’s series opener against the Rays. Castro has options, but he’s not going anywhere.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Showalter said with a laugh. “I like the idea of when guys are pitching well, and I know Dan (Duquette) does, too, that they should stay here. It’s kind of how you stay here.”
Trey Mancini and Adam Jones, the first two batters in the order, came within a triple of the cycle. Jones followed Mancini’s leadoff double in the first with one of his own and he hit a two-run homer in the fourth. Mancini delivered a two-run shot to right field in the fourth after Chance Sisco’s two-run double gave the Orioles a 7-6 lead.
The Royals kept starter Ian Kennedy on the mound until he allowed nine runs in four innings. Perez looked back at the dugout in the fourth while walking to the mound for a conference and as the bullpen finally began to stir.
“I’m hoping we’re starting to get where we can stretch out that lineup and have a lot of places where guys can’t breathe,” Showalter said. “We saw some of that tonight and I’m hoping that continues. But sometimes you’re as good as who you’re facing the next day. That’s when you need a better-pitched game and maybe do some things with the glove or run the bases. There were a lot of opportunities to give in and they didn’t. I’m proud of them.”
Anthony Santander pinch-hit for Pedro Álvarez in the fifth and lined an RBI single to center field off left-hander Brian Flynn. Jonathan Schoop committed his second error in two nights on a dropped throw, but he produced a run-scoring single in the sixth to expand the lead to 11-6.
Alvarez left the game with cramping/spasms in his hamstring and is day-to-day.
“Brian (Ebel) thinks it’s just a cramp and could have, would have, just didn’t want to take a chance with it,” Showalter said. “First time we had some humidity here. I’m hoping that’s what it was, but we’ll see what it’s like tomorrow.”
Manny Machado hit a two-run homer in the first, singled and walked twice.
Mark Trumbo had two more hits and a walk and is batting .333 since coming off the disabled list.
Another long first inning didn’t cause the offense to grow stale.
“I’m not into statements and this means that and that means this and you scored three runs in the bottom of the first after they scored four, so this means this is going to happen. It doesn’t work that way,” Showalter said.
“It happened quickly and there was a lot of fight there. Strung a lot of good at-bats together, a lot of guys hitting the ball the other way. Not trying to do too much. I thought Pete (Jace Peterson) handled himself pretty well at third base. Wanted to get a look at that.
“I think as much as anything, when you kind of settle things down with Miguel you say, ‘OK, if we can get some runs here, he’s going to settle it in a little bit.’ I thought Tanner was good. That was impressive.”
Tillman was spared the loss, but not the scrutiny. He couldn’t locate the plate again or consistently make quality pitches. Only 23 of 45 offerings were strikes.
“Same challenges he’s had,” Showalter said. “Stuff was a little short and command was short. That’s a bad combination. It’s tough to watch him struggle like that, especially with the success he’s had in the past.”
Tillman said again that he’s fine physically.
“It’s frustrating any time it happens,” he said. “One in a row, two in a row. It really doesn’t matter. It’s always frustration. As starters we know we’ve got to get deeper in the game and give the team a better chance to win than that.”