Tillman trying for back-to-back victories

The Orioles will find out tonight whether Chris Tillman’s last start was a sign or a tease. Whether his success was based more on the opponent or ...

Tillman-Delivers-Black-Sidebar.jpgThe second question may go unanswered because Tillman is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in six career outings against the Angels. He’s 7-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts against the Tigers.

Manager Buck Showalter lined him up properly. Didn’t skip him after the rainout. Everyone was pushed back a day and Tillman got the ball.

In two starts at Angel Stadium, Tillman has allowed only one run and eight hits in 14 innings while earning a win and settling for a no-decision. But he hasn’t pitched in Anaheim since July 23, 2014 - one run over six innings - and this isn’t the same Tillman except for the name and uniform.

Tillman hasn’t won consecutive starts since July 5-21, 2016. He earned his first victory in 23 starts on April 27 by holding the Tigers to only one hit in seven scoreless innings, but his fastball mostly was 87-88 mph and he relied on the effectiveness of his slider and curveball to keep the opponent off-balance.

The Orioles will take more of the same.

They might not get back the version of Tillman, the pre-shoulder injury ace, who posted ERAs of 2.93, 3.71, 3.34 and 3.77 from 2012-2016. Maybe because of the shoulder, a delivery where he throws across his body, some other reason. But the Orioles signed him a major league deal guaranteeing $3 million with the chance for an additional $7 million because they believe he can get hitters out and win.

Tillman threw 52.4 percent four-seam fastballs in 2015, according to brooksbaseball.net, and 39.9, 33.7 and 34.8 over the next three seasons. He’s thrown 20.8 percent sliders this year compared to 3.7 last season.

The radar gun always will be an obsession with media and fans, and Tillman’s 89.5 mph average velocity on his four-seam fastball raises concerns, questions or both. It was 92.9 mph in 2016, 93.2 in 2012.

The guy wasn’t flirting with triple digits during his finest seasons. He just had a little more giddy-up on the ball. But the reduced difference between fastball and changeup, which is averaging 83.15 mph, can be an issue.

Over his first three starts, Tillman walked 10 batters and struck out three in 11 1/3 innings. Over the last two, he’s walked three batters and struck out 10 in 13 innings. That’s the more important trend here.

Mike Trout is 2-for-12 with four strikeouts lifetime against Tillman. I’d still keep walking him.

Luis Valbuena is 4-for-11 with two doubles and a home run. Kole Calhoun is 3-for-8 with a double and home run.

Down on the farm, Double-A Bowie outfielder Austin Hays went 2-for-5 with a double, triple and two RBIs yesterday in a 9-6, 10-inning win over Erie. Hays is batting .232.

Hays has gotten off to a slow start after being chosen as the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2017 and earning a September promotion to the majors, but a scout from outside the organization offered high praise after watching the former third-round pick last month.

“Exciting, athletic, young player, future All-Star, reminds of a poor man’s Trout. Same look, game and tools set,” he said.

“His bat will play with power, he’s a plus-defender with a cannon arm and he’s a plus-runner, overall a prototype right fielder. He is super competitive, aggressive and plays hard. He will play in the big leagues this year. Better all-around player than (Trey) Mancini.”

Jimmy Yacabonis made another start for Triple-A Norfolk last night and allowed two runs and two hits over 4 1/3 innings, with three walks and two strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches, 47 for strikes.

Preston Palmeiro hit his fourth home run for Single-A Frederick. He also doubled to raise his average to .292 and drove in three runs to raise his RBI total to 15.

Palmeiro, the youngest son of Rafael Palmeiro, is making the conversion from first base to second base. He’s committed five errors in 24 games.

I’m hopping on a plane to Oakland this afternoon, still deciding whether to be bumped every five seconds in my aisle seat or be jammed against a window for six hours. Either way it’s nothing but pure fun.

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