As his ERA went up and his usual number of innings pitched went down tonight, one obvious question for Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was about his shoulder.
He didn’t make his first start this season until May 7. Tonight he gave up seven hits and five runs over 2 2/3 innings as the New York Yankees hammered the Orioles 8-3 to drop Baltimore 4 1/2 games out in the American League East.
Tillman got a platelet-rich plasma injection in his shoulder in December and a cortisone injection in mid-March. But he said tonight he is fine physically and pointed to his mechanics as the reason for his struggles. He feels his problems are easily fixable, but whatever he is searching for, he could not find during his 59-pitch outing tonight.
“I mean, I felt really good actually,” Tillman said. “It’s been getting better every start. To be honest with you, I haven’t even thought about it (his shoulder soreness) since I got back here. That is an excuse and not one I will use. That’s behind me.”
Tillman gave up homers to the first and third batters he faced tonight as Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday took him deep. He gave up three homers overall for the first time since last June 3 and is now 1-2 with an ERA of 5.87.
Even though he felt fine physically, with his velocity down a tick or two from past years, is arm strength holding him back?
“I don’t think so, I really don’t,” Tillman said. “It’s more an execution thing than it is arm strength. And mechanically, too. That is an easy excuse. When you are off mechanically, I feel like you are out there trying to search and search and search to find the right one to make pitches. It kind of snowballed tonight. They came out hacking and they never stopped.
“I felt like I still had a chance to do it (get deep in the game). But when you let them jump out to a lead like that, you are not giving the team a very good chance to win. In the past, the runs weren’t what they were tonight. He would give me a chance to work it out and get deep in the ballgame and rest the bullpen. But tonight, it wasn’t in the cards.”
Tillman said command was an issue on Wednesday when he gave up four early runs to the Twins. Was it the same thing tonight?
“I mean, not like it was the last time,” he said. “Command was a little better. They came out hacking and I was falling behind and not putting myself in a good situation to get the results you are looking for.”
He was asked if his issues are fixable.
“Oh, yeah. It is right there in front of me,” he said. “It’s an easy adjustment. We know what it is. We worked on it this last time (between starts). The bullpen went really well, but when I got out there, I felt like I was trying to search to feel it again and never quite got there.”
Tillman went five innings or less for the fourth time in five starts. This was his shortest start since he went 1 2/3 innings against Boston last Sept. 22.
Meanwhile, very few O’s batters could get to Yankee right-hander Luis Severino, who gave up one run over 6 1/3 innings. But Trey Mancini did go 3-for-3 against him with an RBI and is now batting .300.
“Off a guy like Severino, you can’t try to do too much,” Mancini said. “With that velocity, he is going to supply a lot of power and such. Almost tried to cut my swing down a bit and think right field. Lately, personally, I think maybe I’ve been pulling off the ball some at times. So tried to swing 75, 80 percent and take him the other way.”
But while Mancini had a good night, the Orioles lost for the eighth time in nine games. They are 4-14 since May 9.
“It’s a mixture of a lot of things that aren’t going our way,” Mancini said. “Most of these games have been very close. Sometimes maybe just the pitching and hitting haven’t matched up. When the pitchers were doing well, the hitters was slacking a bit, but that will happen during the course of the season.”
He expressed confidence in Tillman, a three-time opening say starter for the Orioles who has now given up nine runs over 7 2/3 innings over his past two games.
“He missed a few starts this season” Mancini said. “Everyone in this clubhouse has no doubt. We all know what Chris Tillman can do. He’s a great pitcher and has thrown some great games. We all have days we may not be ourselves exactly. I don’t think there is too much concern about him.”
Mancini drew a walk in the eighth tonight, reaching base four times in a game for the first time in his career. He is batting .362 in May and is hitting .327 in 17 home games.