If the Orioles wanted to see progress from Chris Tillman, they got it in spurts. Nothing to push them toward a full-time return to the rotation.
If they wanted a win to give them the series and another shove toward the second wild card, they were rejected.
Tillman didn’t make it through the sixth inning, burned by a lapse in control and two more home runs, and pinch-hitter Cameron Maybin singled off Mychal Givens with two outs in the eighth to score Kole Calhoun and give the Angels a 5-4 win over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 24,715 at sunny Camden Yards.
The Orioles are 60-64, four games under .500 for the first time since July 30. They haven’t won a series since sweeping the Royals on July 31-Aug. 2.
A return home hasn’t proven to be a tonic for them.
They need a cure for the rotation’s latest slump. Starters haven’t gone more than 5 1/3 innings in the last five games. The burden again falls on the bullpen and the bats.
Brad Brach tossed a scoreless seventh inning, getting a double play after a one-out single and Manny Machado error, but he walked two of the three batters he faced in the eighth. Givens retired C.J. Cron on a fly ball, but Maybin lined a single into right field.
For a while, it appeared that the Orioles didn’t have a chance.
The offense had managed only two runs since Machado’s walk-off grand slam until Jonathan Schoop matched that total with a bases-loaded single off former Oriole Parker Bridwell with no outs in the sixth to reduce the lead to 4-3.
The rally included a throwing error by second baseman Cliff Pennington on a fielder’s choice that left Bridwell with two earned runs and two unearned in five-plus innings.
Tillman served up a leadoff home run to Calhoun in the second inning and a long two-run shot by Andrelton Simmons in the sixth, as the Angels went deep for the 11th time in the series. He walked a season-high six batters and had only one clean inning.
Making his first start since Aug. 3, Tillman allowed four runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He threw 99 pitches, the last to Luis Valbuena resulting in his sixth walk. Only 49 were strikes.
Before today’s game, Tillman had surrendered 19 runs in the first inning for an 11.40 ERA. He also served up seven home runs and issued 12 walks, and opponents were batting .379. But he retired the side in order on 13 pitches, a positive sign until Calhoun led off the next inning with his shot to right field.
Albert Pujols singled with two outs in the third to score Ben Revere, who had walked and stole second base. A double play ended the fourth, and another one erased Pennington after a leadoff walk in the fifth.
Tillman actually lowered his ERA from 7.83 to 7.75.
Bridwell gave up a solo home run to Davis leading off the bottom of the third - Davis’ 19th of the season on his first at-bat since missing the last two games with an illness. Davis also singled in the fifth, accounting at that time for two of his club’s three hits.
Bridwell held the Orioles to one run over seven innings on Aug. 8. He was sharp again in the rematch until the sixth, when Joseph led off with a single, Pennington committed the error and Machado singled to fill the bases.
Schoop delivered his two-run single to force Bridwell out of the game. Keynan Middleton induced a ground ball from Jones, with Simmons running toward Machado and getting him into a rundown between third and home. Machado was tagged out while Schoop held at second base. Trey Mancini struck out, but Trumbo followed with his game-tying double to right-center field.
Down by a run in the bottom of the eighth, the Orioles tried again to rally with Schoop lining a one-out single into left field for his third hit. Jones popped up and Mancini lined to Simmons, who made a nice backhanded grab to close the inning.
Mancini is 2-for-26 in his last seven games.
The Orioles are four games back for the second wild card, unable to heat up on the road or at home.
Manager Buck Showalter on Tillman’s six walks, and the others: “I think we walked, what, nine guys today? That’s like turning the lineup over without earning it. You’re going to have a tough time winning those games, but we had a shot. Some good things in between those. We outhit them, but the walks. I’m surprised they only scored five runs. Hopefully, that will get better. Stuff, I thought, was better. A semi-step. We’ll see. A lot depends on where he goes from here. But you take away the slider that Simmons hooked down there in the corner, wasn’t bad.”
On whether he saw improvement: “Somewhat, somewhat. Especially early. I thought he got through the first inning, I thought that was a good sign. Not get through it, but just pitch through it without throwing 35 pitches. The walks I’m sure he’d like to have back. There were some pitches that were just balls out of his hand. There’s not really anything competitive you can get back with those pitches. Better than his last outing and hopefully he’ll build on it. I talked to him in the dugout. Felt pretty good. I’m ooking forward to seeing him pitch again and see if he can go to another level that we all know he’s capable of.”
On whether he considered using Zach Britton in eighth: “Consider? We consider everything. Fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning, eighth inning, all those things. But we had Mychal, who’s very good at that. A lot of people available to do the job real well. We could have brought Brach in in the fifth inning, we could have brought Mychal in in the ninth inning. There’s a lot of options there.”
More on Tillman: “I thought his stuff was a little crisper. Fastball was pretty consistent, but command was a challenge for him. I’m trying to look at the runs given up other than the last two. But we did give them up and we did make a pitch we’d like to have back. But he did a good job with Trout and Pujols for the most part. Usually, you hold those two guys in check without a whole lot of damage, you like your chances.”
On whether Tillman gets another start: “He’ll start again. We’re trying to give some guys some rest. Exactly when it is after the off-day, we’re going to kind of wait and see how things go, so we won’t really set things in stone until after the off-day.”
On ground-rule double: “I think we all know 3-2 count, people running on the pitch, it’s a rule that doesn’t make any sense. I think both teams would agree with that. But it’s one of those things, someone will say that’s the way it’s always been done. Well, it’s always been done wrong. But today it bit us. We used to have that problem a lot when we had that synthetic warning track.”
On frustration of not gaining ground: “You’d have liked to win the series. We’d have liked to win all three. We had a good opportunity today, but they pitched a little bit better than we did. The competition is us. It’s us playing better regardless of who you’re playing. Our competition is Oakland now and it’s us.
“There’s opportunity there for us. We’d like to win. If they had a different shortstop there we would have. That’s why there’s nobody better than him. He’s special.”