The Orioles called up Chris Tillman from Norfolk to make the Fourth of July start in Seattle Wednesday, hoping he’d piece together a solid enough start to rest some of the arms in the bullpen and save them for the upcoming Angels series. The organizational brass had been impressed by Tillman’s maturation over the first half of the season at triple-A, and, maybe more importantly, by his pitch location.
Truth be told, it was the most important start in the career of the 24 year old, who was viewed as one of two jewels picked up in the Erik Bedard trade with Seattle four years ago. Tillman gave the Orioles a dream performance, leaving with a shutout, just two outs from a complete game, and with his club up 4-0.
Tillman (W, 1-0) got some early run support, courtesy of the star who came to Baltimore in the same deal. Adam Jones launched a belt-high, 2-0 fastball from Mariners Starter Hector Noesi (L, 2-11) into the second deck to leadoff the second inning, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
The birds played some small ball to help plate a pair of runs in the third. Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino started the inning with back-to-back hits, and were moved up to second and third by a Xavier Avery sacrifice bunt. A JJ Hardy groundout to short turned into a productive out, scoring Reynolds for a 2-0 O’s lead. Chris Davis singled to plate Andino, making it 3-0 Orioles.
Honestly, no one could have known that would be enough for Chris Tillman and the Orioles on the Fourth, and anyone who guessed it might be hasn’t seen Tillman during his enigmatic 3-year trial run in Baltimore. He came into Wednesday’s start sporting a 7-15 career record with a lifetime ERA of 5.58. He’d given up 205 hits and 80 walks in just over 180 career innings.
But the Chris Tillman seen in Seattle Wednesday didn’t even slightly resemble that Chris Tillman. He’d allowed only one hit and two walks to the Mariners through eight innings. In the ninth, Michael Saunders led off by reaching on an error by Andino. One out later, John Jaso followed with a double, and Buck Showalter took the ball from Tillman. Jim Johnson allowed both inherited runners to score, but retired the Mariners with no further damage, and the Orioles won the series after dropping the first game.
The birds move down the west coast to battle the Angels next. The four game set leads up to the All Star break, and begins Thursday night, with Jake Arrieta (3-9, 5.81) taking on Garrett Richards (2-1, 2.81). Game time is 10:05.
- Tillman’s performance gives O’s fans lots of reasons to be happy. For one, maybe this is the start of something big from a guy big things were expected of. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, whatever magic Tides Pitching Coach Mike Griffin and Manager Ron Johnson worked on Tillman, maybe they can work into Brian Matusz and/or Tommy Hunter, too.
- When Adam Jones homers, good things happen. And Adam Jones tends to hit home runs at good times. 12 of Jones’ 20 home runs have either tied a game, or given the Orioles a lead. And the birds are 16-3 in games that Jones homers in.
- Nice call by Buck Showalter giving Tillman the start against the Mariners instead of the Angels. The M’s are far inferior offensively, and getting a game like this out of the gate in the big leagues for Tillman could be huge.
- Another couple of errors, one from Andino (his 12th), and one from Wilson Betemit (13).