Contrary to what his numbers state, Chris Tillman turned in his best outing of the season yesterday. And no, that’s not said with sarcasm – he put the O’s in a position to win. Tillman’s line: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 6 K. Again, the numbers don’t indicate that; but it’s true.
Tillman ended up a hard-luck loser yesterday in my book. The bad news is that the Orioles fell to 1-7 on what was a disasterous road trip. The good news is that the rotation has actually gotten better, as has the bullpen. After Tillman exited yesterday the ‘pen didn’t give up any runs.
Tillman kept Chicago off the board until the last of the fourth when Davidson smacked a solo home run. They say however that solo homers won’t beat you for the most part, and that was certainly true yesterday. One inning later Caleb Joseph‘s RBI-double tied the game at one. However despite having numerous runners on base, that’s all the Orioles could muster.
And incidentally, that’s my argument against small ball right there. If you think small, you’re going to be small. Granted at the time, that was a big hit by Joseph because it tied the game. But with the power of which this Orioles team is capable, they should have gotten more than one run in that inning.
With nobody gone in the sixth, Tillman had runners at first and second with Smith coming to bat. Conventional wisdom said that this could be a bunt situation, however Smith’s a guy who had never laid down a sac bunt in his life. Furthermore Chicago had Garcia, a young player, on deck. Would he be able to get those runners home?
In fact, Chicago disregarded those factors and had the sac bunt on. And go figure, Smith still doesn’t have a sac bunt to his name…because he froze the Oriole infield when he laid the bunt down, and it ended up being an infield single. That’s why I say that Tillman is a hard-luck loser, because the defense behind him failed him in that instance. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when the Oriole infield makes mistakes other teams take advantage.
Tillman struck out Garcia, however that brought Cabrera to the plate and his two-RBI single gave Chicago a 3-1 lead and chased Tillman. Abreu would later walk in a run and Garcia would add a sac fly-RBI to run the score to 5-1. Throughout this bad stretch for the Orioles, opponents have always taken advantage of every Oriole miscue like clockwork. Yet, the O’s seem to invent ways to let their opponents off the hook – like only netting the one run in the fifth inning.
Castillo would smack a solo homer for the O’s in the top of the ninth, but this goes as another loss at 5-2. Again, opponents are really getting rich off of mistakes that the Orioles are making. And they’re rare mistakes at that, such as balls dropping in the outfield, errors in the infield, and so forth. They’re probably made out of frustration and an overwhelming sense of urgency, but other teams are making the Orioles pay for every mistake they make. The Birds need to find a way to flip that script – and quick.
The Orioles will now come home in hopes that some home cooking will give them some help – they’ll open up a three-game interleague series against St. Louis. Kevin Gausman will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.
Needless to say, Chris Tillman didn’t get the job done last night for the Baltimore Orioles. Tillman’s line: 1.1 IP, 7 H, 9 R, 3 BB, 1 K. That tells anyone all that they need to know about the game in general.
Tillman’s first inning was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. He recorded the first out on a strikeout, and then induced the second hitter to ground out to first. Admittedly you’re already thinking that it would be a clean inning, however I was literally about to tweet that if the first inning was any indication Tillman had his good stuff last night.
The third hitter was Judge; and he smacked a solo homer. Sanchez also hit a two-RBI single, and Gregorious a two-run homer. Throw in a Carter RBI-single, and the Birds trailed 6-0 after one.
And it only got worse from there. Before Tillman’s book closed early in the second inning, it was 9-0. But how did Tillman go from being so good for the first two hitters to totally falling off the map?
There’s some speculation that perhaps there’s some sort of injury that’s still nagging him. However the onus at this point is on Tillman if he isn’t feeling right to say something. And I have to believe that Tillman along with every other guy on the roster is enough of a pro to where they would do just that.
With all of that in mind, it’s worth mentioning that if you send a player to the DL, the opposing team’s doctors have the right to examine him first. So it’s very easy to suggest using the DL as a de facto demotion to the minor leagues for anyone, however that could backfire.
I suspect it’s kind of an unwritten rule that unless the guy is truly healthy with no issues whatsoever you kind of don’t say anything. However do fans really think that a team like New York, a division rival, wouldn’t try to exercise any advantage they could?
I’m not suggesting that Tillman isn’t injured – or that he is. I’m just saying that you have to be careful when you send people to the DL. I do think it’s worth looking into his health in between starts, because what happened last night isn’t going to win you many games.
When the smoke cleared, the Orioles had given up 16 runs total. Again, not going to win you many games. They did get solo homers from Davis and Rickart in the seventh and eighth, and an RBI-single by Joseph.
The O’s will try to salvage one game in the Bronx in this afternoon’s series finale. Kevin Gausman will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by New York’s Chad Green. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.
Chris Tillman had his faults in yesterday’s game, however in my personal view he pitched better than the numbers indicate. Tillman’s line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R (3 earned), 4 BB, 3 K. Tillman had a bit of a rough first inning, but then settled in. Again in my view, he put the Orioles in a spot to win the game.
Tillman did give up two early runs which in a way set the tone for the game. Bradley’s two-RBI single in the first inning gave Boston a 2-0 lead. The Orioles were able to garner an out on the play however, as Moreland was tagged out at third base trying to advance – ending the inning.
But it also appeared that Boston’s Sale was going to struggle on this day as well. Before anyone knew it, the game was tied following Chris Davis‘ two-RBI single in the last of the first. Later in the inning Jonathan Schoop would double Davis home, and the O’s held a 3-2 lead.
And it appeared that Tillman was settling in on this Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately he gave up a solo homer to Benintendi in the third, which tied the game. However he did continue to record outs, and looked good in doing so. For the most part, base runners which he did allow were erased – until the sixth.
On one hand, it’s nary impossible to blame a pitcher when runs score due to an error…especially when said error comes as a result of a ball that wasn’t even in play. However it could also be said that had runners not been on base, nothing would have happened. You just never know what can happen, so when guys get on base they could end up getting home in any fashion.
Sure enough in the sixth, Boston had two runners in scoring position. Catcher Fransisco Pena had a shot at picking off Sandoval at third. In fact, he probably had him picked off…if not for the fact that the throw was errant and ended up in left field. Two runs scored on that E2, and Boston had a 5-3 lead. Benintendi would homer in the seventh, and smack an RBI-single in the ninth and Boston took the game 7-3.
So as seems to be the case in many four-game series’, the Orioles split this one with Boston two games a piece. Again, anything can happen when guys get on base. While those two runs are unearned, they are charged to Tillman. Yet they didn’t score as a result of anything that he did. That’s baseball sometimes.
Yesterday’s game was also the last one in the career of Orioles’ radio voice Fred Manfra, who is retiring and moving to Tampa, FL. It’s the end of a 50-year career in broadcasting for Manfra, which took him to NBA Finals, NHL Stanley Cup Finals, Triple Crown Races, and to the Orioles broadcast booth. He began with the Orioles in 1993, and has been a fixture in the radio booth ever since, being paired with the likes of John Miller, Jim Hunter, and of course Joe Angel.
Manfra will be missed, both by fans and by his co-workers. Angel said it’s been like calling games with his best friend for all the time they’ve worked together. Manfra’s a Baltimore native, and attended Patterson High School. And as I said, he will be missed.
I talk a lot about the Baltimore Orioles being a power-hitting club. The fact is however that it’s only worth mentioning if they’re firing on all cylinders. And at the moment, the Orioles aren’t. They won on Monday, however you’d be hard-pressed to argue that they did so due to power.
The good news for the Birds is that this seems to happen every year – and right around this time if anything. Everyone seemingly looks lost at the plate, and the power just gets zapped. And everyone always seems to talk about how the entire team goes into a funk at once and so forth. Again, it seems to happen each year in late May or early June.
However in the case of last night’s game, the fact that Chris Tillman wasn’t really on his game didn’t help. Tillman’s line: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 B, 1 K. Two of the first three batters of the game (Gardener and Holliday) homered. They say that solo home runs won’t hurt you; but several of them might. Hicks would add an RBI-single in the second, and in his next turn at the plate Holliday added another solo home run.
NY would knock Tillman from the game later in the third after Headley’s RBI-single, running the score to 5-0. But New York hitters were simply teeing off on Oriole pitching on this night. Gardener added a second solo homer as well in the fourth, and Judge added an RBI-single. Before the game was half over, the O’s trailed 8-0.
But the silver lining on this game for the Orioles was that towards the end they made New York work. And by that I mean their bullpen. The last thing any team wants to have to do is use multiple relievers in a game that they had well in hand. Mancini got the Orioles on the board in the last of the sixth with an RBI-single, and RBI-singles by Rickart and Hardy in the eigth ran the final to 8-3.
However as I said, New York had to blow through several relievers – four to be exact. That’s probably about three more than they would have liked to have used with an eight-run lead at one point. They also used several relievers in Monday’s game, so again that bodes well for the Birds going into the series finale.
Keep in mind, the Baltimore Orioles seemingly have no issue with power-hitting clubs like themselves. They handle New York, Boston, and Toronto fairly easily. The same is true of Washington when the teams play, among other teams. It’s the small ball teams with whom they struggle.
And my theory is that the issue lies in the name; small ball is just that: small. Teams such as the Minnesota Twins don’t look for the big blasts or the majestic home runs. They’re happy with just the one run here or there. So while teams like the Orioles are sitting on fastballs that they can hit out, small ball teams look just to get on base and they’re happy with that.
Small ball or not, Chris Tillman needs to be better than he was in today’s game. Tillman’s line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K. The issue was that at the beginning Tillman was throwing ball one almost immediately to every batter. That enabled Minnesota hitters to work from ahead, and they could in fact sit on pitches they wanted to get on base.
Minnesota put three runs on the board in the first, and two in the second. That drained the energy from the crowd right off the bat. Granted however, the Birds did make a comeback in this one to make it close. They got solo home runs off of Hardy in the third, and Davis and Schoop in the seventh. They did have the go-ahead run at the plate in the last of the ninth, but they recorded the final out and the game was over.
One mark of the Orioles has also been that they seem to be forced into playing their opponents’ game, which in this case was small ball. Yes they hit three home runs this afternoon – but three solo home runs. They couldn’t get anything in with any runners on base.
So why is it that small ball always seems to come up and bit the O’s? And the answer to that is even the worst Oriole hitter is looking to hit-for-power. So they’ll let pitches go by unless they think there’s a chance the ball can be driven. And that’s why strikeouts can be so high.
Instead, teams like Minnesota and Kansas City don’t let good pitches go by. Their attitudes appear to be that just getting on base makes a difference. And of course, it does. So whether they can drive the pitch or not, they’re looking for balls they can put in play.
I think it’s overly simplistic to suggest that the O’s should simply play small ball. Keep in mind that they’re a roster full of poewr hitters. If you try to take guys out of their element things will get worse. So the only way forward is to continue with big ball, and hope their bats snap out of the funk in whcih they’ve been.
Chris Tillman struggled in the first inning yesterday. He walked the first two batters and later had the bases loaded, putting the game in a precarious state from the beginning. However he pitched out of danger, which is a huge key. I tell people all the time that pitchers will get themselves in trouble – it’s the nature of the position. The good ones will also get themselves out of trouble. Tillman’s line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K.
I suspect that Tillman would have liked to have gone deeper into the game, however keep in mind that this was only his first start of the season (after having been injured). More importantly, as a starter he put his team in a spot to win the game. and he drew glowing reviews from Showalter after the game (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
It was a real testament to his pitchability, searching for something he could survive with early where he could get in step a little bit. Chris has got a lot of weapons. I remember when we first had him it was really a 2 1/2-pitch mix. Now, it’s a cutter/slider and he went to that some later on. He went to that some later on. Changeup, he found a feel for that. He’ll tell you I don’t think he really felt good about the command of his fastball for most of his outing, but he and Frankie found a way to survive.
After getting out of a jam in the top of the first, the Orioles’ offense took over in the bottom of the inning. They took a 1-0 lead on Jones’ sac fly-RBI, and never looked back. Later in the inning Mancini added an RBI-double, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Jones would also add an RBI-single an inning later, as would Machado. And that closes the book on the scoring in this game. For awhile it looked like the Orioles were going to run them out of the park, but Chicago themselves settled down their own pitching situation as the game went on. But the damage was already done.
Alec Asher pitched nearly four innings in relief for the Birds yesterday, making one wonder if he’ll need to be optioned. Yesterday would have been Asher’s normal turn in the rotation, however with Tillman’s return he was relegated to the bullpen. Showalter indicated that he hoped he wouldn’t have to option Asher because he certainly didn’t deserve that.
However with a few exceptions (such as starters and various relievers), every pitcher knows that his status as a big leaguer is shaky at best with the Orioles. They utilize the entire 40-man roster an then some. So a guy like Asher knows that he could be headed down if for no other reason than the team needs a fresh arm. It’s unfortunate at times, but it certainly can happen.
The Orioles will open up a two-game series at home with Washington this evening, which will also mark the return of Matt Wieters to Oriole Park at Camden Yards – but as a visitor. Kevin Gausman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Gio Gonzalez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.
It’s looking increasingly like Chris Tillman is not going to break camp with the Baltimore Orioles. It’s unclear if Tillman is destined for the DL or perhaps extended spring training, however the idea of him pitching in the first week of the season isn’t looking good. Tillman was supposed to play long toss at Ed Smith Stadium yesterday, and he was shut down with further discomfort in his right shoulder after only a few throws.
This is turning into a bit of a problem for a franchise that’s relying on Tillman to do great things this year. Tillman has been the Orioles’ ace the past few years, and in many cases he’s been the only pitcher who’s shown any sort of consistency for the team. Whether he can do that this year is very much in doubt.
This was also to be big year for Tillman himself, as he’s fast approaching the time when he’ll need a new contract. The last thing that he personally is going to want is an injury attached to his name or his performance. Buck Showalter said that in his mind the worst-case scenario is that Tillman starts over from scratch in terms of ceasing baseball activities (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
The worst-case scenario for me, well, not worse, is that he kind of starts over from scratch and stays down here in extended spring. It looks like he’s got a chance to be left here with (minor league medical coordinator) Dave Walker, but I’m hoping something changes here in the next week. He may try it again, I don’t know, or we may get back and he’s headed for another opinion. Because this is a big year for him. That’s when you know there’s something wrong.
With all of this said, read a bit between the lines there. What Showalter did not say was that Tillman would need to have surgery or anything along those lines. That’s not to say that surgery isn’t an eventuality, but I suspect that’s not on the table right now. But needless to say, this is a major concern.
Meanwhile, the O’s defeated the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers yesterday afternoon, 8-6. Catcher Austin Wynns‘ two-RBI double in the top of the ninth broke a 6-6 tie, and put the Birds in the lead. The Orioles led for all of about 20 minutes in this game – yet it still counts as a win.
Dylan Bundy struggled in this game however, having to exit earlier than he would have liked. Bundy’s line: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 1 K. After his outing Bundy admitted that he was catching too much of the plate with his pitches, however keep in mind that’s why we’re playing these games. Given the Tillman situation, the Orioles are going to be relying on Bundy to be a sturdy part of the rotation moving forward. No pressure or anything…!
The O’s will return home to Ed Smith Stadium this afternoon to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. Kevin Gausman will get the start, and he’ll be opposed by Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.