A 2.39 ERA in nine career starts at Fenway Park meant nothing tonight. It didn’t enable Tillman to locate the plate, to lower his pitches into the strike zone, to gain velocity on his fastball, to properly defend himself.
Tillman faced three batters in the third inning without recording an out and was charged with six runs in the Red Sox’s 7-3 victory over the Orioles. His ERA rose to 11.91 in 11 1/3 innings and his placement in the rotation again comes under scrutiny.
The Orioles’ streak of quality starts ended at three in a row with the Red Sox still batting in the bottom of the first. J.D. Martinez lifted a sacrifice fly to score Mookie Betts, who led off with a walk, and Eduardo Núñez followed Rafael Devers double with a three-run homer over the Green Monster in left field.
Six batters into the game and quality would be replaced by more concerns.
Tonight marked Tillman’s shortest start since also going two-plus innings on Aug. 3, 2017 against the Tigers, when he allowed five earned runs and seven total.
Tillman still hasn’t recorded a win since May 7, 2017, a span of 21 starts. He faced 16 batters tonight and retired six.
The 21 consecutive starts without a win is an Orioles record, according to STATS. David Hernandez is second with 16, and Jason Johnson and Jeremy Guthrie are tied for third with 15.
The Red Sox collected seven hits off Tillman. He walked two batters and manager Buck Showalter removed him after his 57th pitch, which drilled Jackie Bradley Jr.
In Tillman’s 11 1/3 innings this season, he’s surrendered 15 runs and 22 hits and walked 10 batters with only three strikeouts for a 2.82 WHIP. His fastball mostly was 89-90 mph tonight.
Alex Cobb joins the rotation on Saturday and the Orioles must clear a roster spot for him. Mike Wright Jr. isn’t listed among the starters for the Red Sox’s series and he pitched in relief tonight, allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings. The club could decide to option utility infielder Engelb Vielma and return to a three-man bench.
Showalter said this afternoon that the move could be dictated by what happened in tonight’s game. But if he had to make a decision that that precise moment, he already decided what to do.
The ground beneath Tillman’s feet is shifting, but they signed him to a major league contract that guarantees $3 million and it would be aggressive to cut him loose after only three starts. But they can’t keep going down the same road.
Tillman was 10-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 21 career starts against the Red Sox, but he fell into immediate trouble tonight. Betts’ leadoff walk and Mitch Moreland’s one-out single set up Martinez’ sacrifice fly, Devers’ double and Nunez’s three-run shot. Tzu-Wei Lin and Betts had back-to-back doubles in the second and the Red Sox used two singles and a hit batter to load the bases in the third and chase Tillman.
Batting leadoff again tonight, Mancini reached base three times with two singles and a walk.
Donnie Hart, in his return to the Orioles, retired four of the five batters he faced and stranded a runner in the seventh inning.
Vielma made his major league debut as a replacement at second base in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Note: The Orioles returned Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. to the Yankees tonight after he cleared waivers. Just as they did with Jose Mesa Jr.