After pitching to an ERA of 11.91 with a WHIP of 2.824 through three starts, right-hander Chris Tillman needed to pitch better in a hurry.
He did today but the Orioles were blanked on two hits by Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger in a 4-0 loss that drops them to 6-15. They’ve lost nine of 11 and have been held to three runs or fewer 14 times in 21 games.
Tillman gave up three solo homers in pitching a season-high six innings. He allowed eight hits and four runs with a walk and five strikeouts on 83 pitches.
It is something to build on.
“Absolutely. I think it was a big steppingstone,” Tillman said. “Anytime you are able to find your command I think that is the first part of any process. It was there for the most part throughout the game.”
“Much better. I wish I would have finished up a little better but, for the most part, it was a heck of a lot better than the last couple.”
Today Tillman found the mark with his pitches more often.
“I’m gonna say command (was better). Command with all the pitches really. I was able to really use both sides of the plate with my fastball and I think that is always a big help. My offspeed was there for the most part too.”
But Cleveland got to him the third time through the order. Sixth-inning homers by Jose Ramirez and Yan Gomes turned a 2-0 Tribe lead into a 4-0 game. Against Clevinger that was too much to overcome.
“If I make better pitches, we are talking about a whole different deal here,” Tillman said of the Cleveland sixth. “I have to make better pitches. I fell behind both those guys in the last inning. Need to stay ahead and make my pitches.”
Tillman falls to 0-4 with an ERA of 9.87. It’s his worst start to a season in his career. But today his six innings was his longest start since he also went six on July 17, 2017 versus Texas.
Tillman threw some props to his catcher, Chance Sisco.
“Awesome. He did a really, really nice job today of calling pitches. Really smart pitches in hitter’s counts. Even when we’re ahead (in the count) he did a really nice job.”
Sisco was asked about the game plan heading into the day to try and get Tillman back on track?
“The game plan was just throwing strikes and trying to get all his pitches in the zone as often as possible. Whenever he fell behind, try to get back in the count as quick as we could and get quick outs,” Sisco said.
Sisco entered the game having thrown out four of eight runners trying to steal on him this year. That was an impressive 50 percent to rank among the best in the AL. Then he added three of three today to go 7-for-11 (.636) on the year. The last time an O’s catcher caught three runners stealing was on Aug. 25, 2012 when Matt Wieters did so vs. Toronto.
Sisco credited improved footwork, but he also had a couple of throws right on the money today.
“Just consistent footwork,” he said. “Before it was a little bit of a struggle to repeat what I was doing with my footwork on a daily basis. I’m trying to get the ball on its way as quick as I can. Lot of credit does go to JR (coach John Russell) and Caleb (Joseph) for helping me out tremendously. But, it’s still super early and just try to keep building momentum on the last few games that I’ve caught. It is kind of a feeling thing. There are a lot of mechanics that do go into in. But once you start feeling comfortable with those mechanics it’s a confidence boost.”
But the Orioles lost again, held to a season-low two hits as their team average dropped to .216. They were shutout for the second time in 2018 and held without an extra-base hit for the first time.