While Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman had to be thrilled with his outing last night, he was firm in saying this doesn’t yet mean he is back or that he has turned a corner or turned around his poor pitching of the last two seasons.
“No. Absolutely not,” Tillman said. “Every start is a challenge. The next team could care less what the heck I did tonight. You have to keep working. Just a piece of the puzzle and you have to keep on going.”
But seeing Tillman throw seven scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over the Detroit Tigers provided a lift for him and his team.
After his third start this season, Tillman had an ERA of 11.91. But in his last outing, he gave up four runs over six innings versus Cleveland and he saw signs of progress that night. And it carried over against the Tigers.
“I felt real close during the last start,” he said. “I felt real close. I felt like fastball command last start was really good. This start, not as good, but the off-speed stuff was better. Was able to mix and match and Caleb (Joseph) was right on top of it.”
Tillman is throwing his fastball this season about 50 percent of the time and his average velocity is 89.9 mph. Last night, he averaged 88 mph. But his secondary pitches were on point and he held Tigers hitters to 1-for-22 at-bat. He actually threw fewer than 50 percent fastballs last night, using his two- and four-seamer for 43 of 98 pitches. He threw 21 sliders and changeups and 13 curveballs.
Detroit was shut out for the fifth time and has gone scoreless over its last 22 innings. But the Tigers are not a bad hitting team and they began this series seventh in the American League in runs.
Tillman delivered the third scoreless start by an Oriole in 2018. Dylan Bundy threw seven scoreless innings against the Twins on opening day and Andrew Cashner went seven scoreless innings versus Toronto on April 10. Tillman produced the club’s 11th quality start and fifth outing of seven innings or more.
Tillman’s strong game came after the Orioles had allowed 17 runs in two games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore pitchers had given up 50 runs over the previous eight games.
In his third game as an Oriole, second baseman Jace Peterson stole third base against a defensive shift again. He also went 2-for-4 with an RBI double, but said the story of the game was on the mound.
“It was fun to watch,” Peterson said of Tillman. “Chris did a heckuva job all day. He was commanding his pitches, hitting his spots and he competed to the max. He gave us a grade A effort and that is what we expect from him. It was fun to play behind.”
Added Pedro Álvarez, who homered twice: “Tillman was outstanding. That is obviously the Chris that I know and have known for a long time. Today is one of the best performances I’ve seen. It is so relieving to see. It helps our defense and our offense. Just an amazing job by him today.”
Álvarez hit two long homers in the win. The first went 416 feet to right field and the second was blasted 421 feet to center. It was the 14th career multi-homer game for Álvarez.
“We are all trying to do our part,” he said. “Every time I go up there, just try to put some good at-bats together. Was fortunate to put some good swings on a couple of balls and drive them out of the park.
Álvarez said this win was much needed by an Orioles team which ended a five-game losing streak and won for just the second time in 13 games.
“Very. But every W is needed,” he said. “Obviously, we have had a couple of rough skids. But one thing this team does well is we stick together. We are a pretty resilient bunch. And as long as we keep that mentality and everyone does a good job of coming in every day prepared, things will turn around. But this is a huge W and hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
Harvey was good, so was Hanifee: Double-A Bowie right-hander Hunter Harvey threw four scoreless innings at Akron last night, but the Baysox lost 2-1. Harvey gave up just two hits and fanned six. He struck out the side in the fourth and threw a season-high 63 pitches. In three games, he is 0-0 with a 1.08 ERA. Over 8 1/3 innings, he’s allowed six hits and one run with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Single-A Delmarva beat Hickory 7-1 and is in first place with a 15-7 record. Shorebirds right-hander Brenan Hanifee allowed four hits and one run over seven innings with two walks and three strikeouts. The 19-year-old Hanifee is 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA over four starts.