There were loud outs and three solo home runs, the last ball reaching Eutaw St. on the fly. Chris Tillman didn’t spend today’s game fooling the Indians, but he turned in his most impressive start in four tries. A small victory while still in search of his first win since last May.
Tillman fell short of a quality start by definition after Yonder Alonso’s 414-foot, two-out shot in the sixth. But today marked his longest outing and his ERA dropped from 11.91 to 9.87.
A shutout only would have carried the game into extra innings.
Mike Clevinger allowed only two hits while going the distance and the Orioles were beaten 4-0 before an announced crowd of 29,187 for their ninth loss in 11 games. They’ve been shut out twice and held to one run or fewer in six of 21 games and two runs or less in nine.
Yan Gomes homered with two outs in the fourth and Jose Ramirez reached the flag court in right field leading off the sixth. The Ramirez and Alonso homers came on fastballs clocked at 87 and 88 mph, respectively.
Tillman struck out Gomes on a 92 mph fastball to end the inning and Tanner Scott replaced him in the seventh. Tillman allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings, with one walk, five strikeouts and two wild pitches.
The 83 pitches were one fewer than Tillman threw over four innings in his season debut in Houston. He threw 106 in 5 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium and 57 in two-plus at Fenway Park.
Before today, Tillman had walked 10 batters and struck out only three. Again, there were signs of improvement, but he missed his target badly on the two wild pitches and the first cost him when Jason Kipnis scored on Michael Brantley’s ground ball in the first inning.
Brantley grounded into a 3-6-1 double play to end the third after Ramirez lined a ball off Davis’ glove for an infield hit. Other Indians drove outfielders to the warning track. But Tillman took all the outs he could get without scribbling down exit velocities.
He gladly would have taken some runs, but Clevinger retired the last 14 Orioles after Chance Sisco led off the fifth with a single. Sisco was erased on a double play.
Sisco threw out three more runners attempting to steal today, including Brantley in the sixth before Alonso’s home run. Sisco has cut down seven of 11 this season.
The last Orioles catcher to throw out three runners in the same game was Matt Wieters on Aug. 25, 2012 against the Blue Jays. Rajai Davis was victimized in that game and again today while trying to swipe third base against Mychal Givens in the ninth.
Scott threw two scoreless innings and Givens didn’t permit a run despite walking the first two batters.
The Orioles have totaled 15 runs in eight home games and they get two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber on Sunday afternoon.
The highlight for Tillman today was an eight-pitch fifth inning, when he retired the side in order on two ground balls and a strikeout. His pitch count stood at 63 as manager Buck Showalter sent him back out for the sixth.
Clevinger returned for the ninth and finished what he started. No runs, two hits, two walks and the Orioles 15th loss in 21 games.
Update: Trey Mancini underwent an MRI on his right knee today and it came back clean. The latest test to assure the Orioles that their left fielder didn’t sustain a more serious injury.
“There was one thing they wanted to make sure there wasn’t something else there that didn’t show up on the CT scan,” Showalter said. “That came back good. Wish we had a night game tomorrow. We’ll see what kind of improvement he makes between now and then.
“I think like Brian (Ebel) just told me, I think we’ll know a lot more in 24 hours. It’s a short turnaround from last night. I wasn’t expecting him to be playable today. I’m hoping the next day or two he’s moving toward getting back in the lineup. We’ll see. He’s pretty sore today.
“Zach (Britton’s) PFP went real well today, so he’ll be back on the mound tomorrow with a half-mound.
Here’s more from Showalter:
On Tillman: “He was better. Obviously, there was very little margin for error with Clevinger. Did some things a lot better, somewhat better, and hopefully it’s something to build on. What did he give up, three solo home runs? Usually, that type of outing gives us a quality chance to win. There were a couple pitches he’d probably like to have back. Got out of that first inning, but we just didn’t do much.
“The story was their pitcher and our inability to solve much off him. Hit a couple balls hard, that’s about it. More than that a little bit. I thought a couple guys hit balls they ran down.”
On Clevinger: “Four o’clock games, if you can command the fastball ... and he’s a lot like (Trevor) Bauer. They’ve got great selling arm speed on their breaking ball. Out of the same slot, same delivery. And didn’t walk people much. It’s a good combination. Once you have to honor that ... He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. I don’t think we struck out, what, two or three times all day? Is that true? I’m not sure if I had it right. Three. So, he got a lot of balls on the ground.”
On Sisco: “That was fun to watch. He and John (Russell) have worked real hard at it. Keep in mind this guy was a lot more shortstop than he was catcher coming out of high school, so he’s come a long way. I know he should take a lot of pride in it. Threw out some good baserunners. Pitchers did a nice job, with one exception, of giving him a chance, too.
“There’s a lot of ability there. It’s just a matter of getting ... It’s a lot like a pitcher mechanically. Some things you have to do, moving your feet and cutting out some steps that a lot of catchers make after they catch the ball. It’s basically a cheat move where you try to get your feet and his feet are working a lot better. You can tell he has a lot of confidence throwing right now. You get a young catcher like that and they’re going to test him. You can see they’re going to keep pushing. They’ll do it again tomorrow. Hopefully, he’ll keep throwing them out if he’s playing.”
More on Tillman: “Chris has had a long period of success and a period that’s not like he’s capable of or has done in the past, so you’re looking for anything. It’s a process. There will be another challenge around the corner. But I thought he presented himself better than he has his other outings. He was very close I thought one time there and it got away from him, but I thought his curveball was better.
“He’d like to have back a couple of pitches. He’s trying to go two-seam a little off the plate and kind of jerks it back middle-middle. He’s trying to throw a two-seam in off the plate and leave it out over the plate. But it’s hard to really be negative about it. I don’t want to be, because offensively and their pitching, it was just so good. We win that game 5-4, it’s a whole different look. I don’t want to get into looking at his outing just because it was 4-0.”
Here’s a little bit from Tilllman:
On outing: “Better. I wish I would have finished up a little better.”
On biggest stride: “Command with all the pitches really. I was able to use both sides of the plate with the fastball and I think that’s all a big help. My offspeed was there for the most part.”