NEW YORK - Orioles manager Buck Showalter made contingency plans yesterday in case Chris Tillman was too sick to take the mound tonight at Yankee Stadium.
Showalter sent Tillman back to the team hotel yesterday with antibiotics and instructions to stay in bed.
Tillman almost was sent to the showers in the first inning tonight, but he survived the Yankees' five-run onslaught and shut them out over the next four frames.
"We talked to him that first inning," Showalter said following the Orioles' 11-5 victory. "He obviously wasn't feeling very good. He was pretty weak. But Rick (Adair) talked to him about breaking out the cutter a little bit. You have some outings where you're just not carrying everything you need to. His velocity was down a little bit and command of his fastball, so just gave him a little different wrinkle and gave him a little different toy to play with. But those last four innings... Matt (Wieters) getting him through those last four innings was pretty special to watch."
How close was Tillman to coming out of the game in the first?
"About as close as he was to not making it out of the clubhouse to start with," Showalter replied. "He's been pretty sick the last two or three days and we had (Matt) Lindstrom going there and he was a hitter away.
"I've said all along, as far as the toughness part of it and the competitive part of it, Tilly's got that part figured out. It's just when he can get consistent. Tonight, I thought his health had as much to do with it as everything. He was a little weak-legged and he seemed to get his legs under him a little bit. You're taking some of the antibiotics he's taking, he started a Z-Pack, you're a little lethargic there. You've been in bed for two days. The Yankees woke that up. He had two choices to make and he made the right one."
Asked if he's proud of the way his team responded by scoring seven runs in the second, Showalter said, "Not any more than the way they go about their business on a given night we get thumped. That's the key - being consistent and professional. We got a great job from the bullpen. I thought the very first RBI we got and then the two-out knock by Q (Omar Quintanilla) made everybody kind of go, 'Hey, there might be something going on here.' They stayed true to it and to the effort part of it. This is a professional team."
Chris Davis struck the big blow in the second inning with his first career grand slam.
"Chris is frustrated by the strikeouts tonight, but he got a big blow for us when it counted," Showalter said. "His contact-to-damage ratio is pretty good. He's a big, strong young man who wants it, and he's not going to give in."
The Orioles aren't thinking about a wild card. Their mindset is to win their division.
"Is there another one to have?" Showalter said, his eyes widening. "That's why we get up in the morning, to try to win your division. It's going to be hard. They're extremely good. There's other teams trying to do the same thing, so we've got our work cut out for us. But we've had a couple good tests here and responded well.
"There's tests in spring, tests on hot day games in May. The season's full of tests and it exposes all sorts of strengths and weaknesses. Tonight, it exposed a strength."