After losing the last three games in Toronto and giving up 21 runs the previous two games, the Orioles were looking for a well-pitched game last night.
Enter Chris Tillman. Remember when we were discussing the strong possibility this winter that he could have a bounce-back season based on his track record? He’s having it.
Comparing two top AL pitchers:
* Chris Tillman is 9-1 with a 2.87 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts/9 innings.
* Chris Sale is 10-2 with a 2.87 ERA and 8.5 strikeouts/9 innings.
The Orioles are 12-2 in his 2016 starts for a .857 win percentage. No, Tillman is not considered an ace like Sale or Clayton Kershaw. But he is pitching like one this season and his outing last night and most of his outings this year have been huge for the Orioles.
Tillman has allowed just one run in 14 1/3 innings his past two starts and has recorded quality starts in nine of his last 11 outings.
At a time when the Orioles rotation has sprung some leaks - and ranked 12th in the league in rotation ERA going into last night - you shudder to think where they would be without Tillman.
With nine wins through 63 team games, he is on a pace to win 23 games. The Orioles have not had a 20-game winner since Mike Boddicker went 20-11 in 1984. Were Tillman to win 23 games this year, that would tie for fourth most wins ever by an Oriole. Steve Stone’s 25 wins in 1980 is the most in one year while Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally both won 24 each in 1970. Those are the only three Orioles ever to win more than 23 games in one season.
The Orioles moved back into sole possession of first place by a game over Boston with last night’s win. They also have the best record in games against AL East opponents:
.577 - Orioles (15-11)
.564 - Toronto (22-17)
.500 - Tampa Bay (12-12)
.467 - Boston (14-16)
.370 - New York (10-17)
More notes on the Orioles:
* The Orioles have now hit two or more homers in a season-high five consecutive games. Before this stretch they did not have more than three consecutive multi-homer games. They have hit 14 homers in the five games of this road trip. They’ve hit 21 the last eight games and 32 in their past 12 games.
* Manny Machado’s two-run homer in the first inning last night was the team’s 100th of the season. Jonathan Schoop hit No. 101 in the eighth.
* Four of the last five Orioles games have been decided by one run. They are 2-2 in those games.
* The Red Sox are now 0-2 in games that David Price has started against the Orioles this year. Price is 0-1 with an ERA of 5.54 in the two starts.
* Since the 2012 season, the Orioles are 51-32 (.614) against Boston. At Fenway Park since 2012, the Orioles are 26-16 (.619).
* The Orioles have three of the top nine home run hitters in the American League. No other team has more than one of the top nine. Mark Trumbo leads the AL with 20 homers. Machado is fourth with 17 and Chris Davis is among five players tied for fifth with 16.
One note on the draft: The Orioles have not yet announced any signings of their draft picks but I have heard they are making solid progress on many picks. We can expect to see some announcements shortly, perhaps within days. The progress has come with some of their highest picks as well as others down in the draft.
Hardy in Bowie: Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy may now be just days away from rejoining the Orioles. He took a big step last night when he began a rehab assignment playing for Double-A Bowie at Prince George’s Stadium. Hardy went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and played six innings in a game that the Baysox lost, 5-4 to Portland in 10 innings. Hardy plans to play at Bowie again tonight and tomorrow and then determine how he feels and if there is a chance he could return to the Orioles as soon as this Friday. Click here to read Hardy’s pregame comments from Tuesday in Bowie and here to read his postgame comments