After pitching a total of 14 innings over his first three starts, Chris Tillman needed to start getting deeper into games and he did that tonight in the Orioles' 2-1 win over Toronto.
Tillman didn't get a decision, but gave his team a strong start, allowing just four hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings to lower his ERA from 7.07 to 5.23.
"He had all of his pitches working," catcher Matt Wieters said. "He had four pitches he could throw for strikes. We really didn't even break out the cutter until late in the game. Nice to keep that in the bag until the third time through the lineup. Gives you more weapons for late in the game."
In his last start Wednesday against Toronto, Tillman threw first-pitch strikes to just six of 22 batters. Tonight, he did so to 15 of 25 hitters.
"I was able to get ahead with my pitches early and my secondary stuff was there for me," Tillman said. "I was able to pound the strike zone early and made some good pitches when I needed to.
"Last game, I didn't get ahead - just six times and it showed. Also, was able to get the offense back in the dugout as quickly as possible. Don't want to leave them out there during long outings and lose the momentum."
Did this feel like 2012 to Tillman, when he went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA?
"Yeah. I've felt good the whole season, just off a little bit," he said. "It was a minor adjustment. Me and Rick (Adair) put a lot of work in between my starts and got it right."
Nick Markakis ended the game with his two-out RBI single to left on an 0-2 pitch against Aaron Loup. It gave the Orioles their second walk-off win of this homestand.
"I watched the first two pitches go by," Markakis said after he got two hits to raise his home batting average to .439. "He's a tough lefty, he throws hard from down there, he's coming across (his body). I went up there wanting to take one pitch. As soon as I got to two strikes, it was battle mode then. Don't try to overswing, just put the ball in play and give myself a chance.
"The beauty of home-field advantage is you get the last out of the game. It came down to the last strike there. Tough battle the whole game. This was a big win."
He had some praise for Tillman on his outing.
"If you ask Chris, he probably didn't pitch the way he wanted the first few times, but today he made up for it. He was using all his pitches and kept us in the game," Markakis said.
This was the first time this year the Orioles won a game in which they didn't hit a homer. They are now 3-3 in one-run games and equaled their high-water mark for the year once again at three games over .500. They improved to 11-8.