BOSTON - Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop didn’t leave tonight’s game to allow Engelb Vielma to make his major league debut. The switch was done to prevent a twinge from growing into something more severe.
Schoop felt a muscle in his side grab while striking out to end the seventh inning and Vielma replaced him in the field.
“He had some discomfort in his side and we decided to get him out of there to be on the safe side,” said manager Buck Showalter. “That last swing he took.”
Schoop singled twice for his second straight multi-hit game. It’s a quick turnaround Saturday afternoon and his placement in the lineup is in jeopardy.
If Vielma was a candidate to be optioned Saturday to make room for Alex Cobb, tonight’s development might protect his spot on the roster. The Orioles will need an extra infielder as part of their four-man bench. Stay tuned.
Schoop is 11-for-37 (.297) on the road this season and he’s batting .324 over his last 28 games against the Red Sox. He owns a .333 average (24-for-72) in 19 games at Fenway Park since the start of the 2016 season.
Chris Tillman didn’t record an out in the third inning tonight and was charged with six runs and seven hits in a 7-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“It’s not good,” he said. “Physically I felt good. Mechanically, I felt better. I just wasn’t able to execute. I think it comes down to executing pitches. I feel like I consistently fell behind and once you fall behind you’re trying to get back in the count and you’re catching too much of the plate when you’re working back into counts.”
Tillman kept missing his target by a wide margin, bringing up again whether there’s an issue with his mechanics.
“I mean, there might be,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it. I felt like my last start was worse mechanically than this one. It comes down to execution. When you miss with the first one, you’ve got to try to get back into the count and you fight an uphill battle at that point, especially against a team like this. You’ve got to stay ahead and work with the count in your favor.”
The command wasn’t there for Tillman and the Orioles were down 6-1 after three innings. His ERA rose to 11.91 and his WHIP to 2.82 in 11 1/3 innings.
“Could never find his step,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Came out a little crisper in the second inning, but couldn’t get the ball where he needed to get it. Never really had a lot of things working in his favor. It was a struggle from the start.
“I’ve seen all the work that he and Roger (McDowell) and Alan (Mills) and everybody all season do. When you get to a point like that, a guy who’s had success like he’s had, there’s some other answers there. We’ve got to find them, solve them, because we need to him to pitch better than that.”
It isn’t easy for anyone on the club to watch Tillman struggle given his past success, his leadership role on the staff and how he basically grew up in the organization after the Orioles acquired him from the Mariners in the Erik Bedard blockbuster.
“I think it’s for everybody, not just me, because like I’ve said many times, you can want something too much, Chris included,” Showalter said. “You keep thinking if he could get a good start under his belt and then take off, because we know what he’s capable of. But physically he feels fine. There’s a lot more going on there than just mechanics.”
The leash is probably longer for Tillman given his track record and the $3 million guaranteed on the contract he signed in March, but he isn’t taking any comfort in whatever security is attached to his deal. He isn’t making the assumption that he has plenty of time to work through his issues.
“I’ve got to get better, period.” he said, cutting off the long leash theory. “I’m not happy with the way it’s going and I just have to get better. It’s not fair to the team, it’s not fair to the bullpen. I need to pick these guys up pretty shortly and it’s got to happen now.
“I want to pitch better. I have to.”
Though he allowed four runs in the first inning, the last three on Eduardo Núñez’s homer, Tillman said he didn’t know immediately that he was going to scuffle to such a degree.
“I had so many games where I went out and struggled early on and gave the team a really good chance to win,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to the point where I said it ain’t going to happen. I don’t think I ever have in my career. So, you come back, work between starts and come back and get the next one.”
The Orioles have been outscored 19-4 in the first inning this season.
The next bullpen day could be critical for Tillman, winless in his last 21 starts. Adjustments must be made, but only if the problems first can be identified.
“It depends on what we talk about and what we discuss,” he said. “I’ve been on a routine, so I like to do that. But obviously we’ve got some work to do and we have to get better.”
Catcher Caleb Joseph mined some encouraging moments out of tonight’s start.
“I saw a lot of normal Chris tonight,” he said. “I like the crispness. He had a good curveball. He made a lot of nice pitches, a lot of swing and misses. You take out three or four kind of bleeders, it may look a little different. I know the results aren’t there. You’re looking for that one ground ball, first and third with one out to turn a double play and get you out of the inning and get some momentum going his way.
“A lot of it is confidence. A lot of the game is confidence. Hitting, defense, pitching. When you pitch with confidence, it seems like good things happen and so you’ve got to find a way to get Chris some confidence. It’s not as bad as it seems out there, I guess. It doesn’t make sense. The stuff is there. Limit the mistakes, get ahead of guys and try and find some luck here and there.”
In Joseph’s opinion, is Tillman close to turning it around?
“The first thing you look for as a catcher is just the stuff. Is the stuff there? And he had normal stuff in terms of electricity, which is why I don’t think you saw the Red Sox banging it all over the place,” Joseph said.
“He made a mistake to Nunez, a 365-foot homer that’s close to the wall at our place, made a mistake to (Mookie) Betts, but other than that it’s not like he was giving up rockets all over the place, so that in itself is a good sign. You’re looking for stuff and the stuff was there tonight. Just couldn’t make that big pitch when he needed to or make a pitch to get out of a jam.”
Betts walked to open the bottom of the first inning and later scored on J.D. Martinez’s sacrifice fly. Tillman couldn’t stop the bleeding, allowing Rafael Devers’ double and Nunez’s three-run shot.
Tsu-Wei Lin and Betts had back-to-back doubles in the second as the Red Sox expanded their lead.
“Leadoff walks are hurting him a little bit,” Joseph said. “I thought his stuff was good tonight in terms of crispness of it. Wasn’t able to really kind of put the guys away or get a groundball double play when he needed it. I think a little bit more bad luck than anything. Stuff like that gets magnified when we’re not really doing much on offense.”
Adam Jones had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and appeared to lead off the fourth with a double on a ball that dropped inside the right field line and hopped onto the rolled tarp. Betts retrieved the ball, which Jones assumed was wedged behind the tarp, and fired to second. A lengthy review produced an out call.
“The ground rules are if the ball’s sitting on top of the tarp, it’s in play, and that was obviously not sitting on top of the tarp,” Showalter said. “My question to them, if Betts had thrown his hands up, they’d had given him a ground-rule double. But the offense gets penalized if a guy goes in there and digs it out.
“Good play by him. He’s got nothing to lose by going and getting it, right? Effort’s never a problem with Adam. He saw the ball disappear and assumed it was out of play. Isn’t it funny at this stage in baseball every tarp is on the field? Crazy, isn’t it? Obviously, that didn’t beat us, but it’s a ground rule interpretation by New York.”
Jones is tied with Jose Bautista for most go-ahead RBIs among active players against the Red Sox with 23. He ranks fourth among active players with 98 career RBIs versus Boston.