Apr 6, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman (30) pitches in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Tillman struggles as O's lose to Minnesota

Jim Johnson is listed as the losing pitcher in last night’s loss to Minnesota, however Chris Tillman didn’t put his team in much of a position to win the game. In fairness, when Tillman exited the game with two outs in the fourth inning the Orioles only trailed 4-2. With their propensity to come back and to put runs on the board (both of which they did), I suppose that being two runs down could be construed as putting your team within striking range to say the least. However the fact is that Tillman didn’t appear to have command of his pitches after the first inning; he threw 13 pitches in the first, but by the time he was finished his pitch total was up to 93 – over 3.2 innings. Tillman’s final line: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 4 K.

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

After Tillman exited rookie T.J. McFarland entered the game and thus made his big league debut. And what a debut it was! McFarland’s final line: 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K. After seeing McFarland pitch last night it was easy to see why Buck Showalter and the coaching staff were so big on him. He retired 10 of 11 hitters in the lineup and perhaps more importantly provided quality long relief when the Orioles really needed it. Needless to say, if the Orioles at some point were going to be forced to send McFarland back to the Indians’ organization (being a rule 5 pick), he made their decision a bit tougher with his performance last night.

The O’s put two across in the last of the first on an Adam Jones infield single and an error on pitcher Vance Worley. However Minnesota sacrificed a run home in the top of the second to cut the lead to 2-1, and then put up four runs on Tillman in the third (three of which came on a home run by Parmalee). One trend I’ve noticed in the first five games is that the Orioles appear to be somewhat susceptible to small ball. We saw Tampa manufacture some runs against the O’s, and while the Parmalee home run was a big play last night Minneosta manufactured a few as well. Granted the O’s play their share of small ball by sacrificing guys over into scoring position (or home), however it’s just a trend I’ve noticed.

While Chris Davis didn’t homer in a game for the first time in 2013, he did contribute by singling Manny Machado home in the third which cut Minnesota’s lead to 4-3. But if there’s one thing these Baltimore Orioles do, it’s give in. Adam Jones’ two-RBI single with the bases loaded in the fifth tied the game, and got Tillman off the hook for the loss. I do find it a bit interesting that teams still try to steal on Matt Wieters, who threw two runners out on the base paths last night. Granted you have to take risks sometimes to win games, however I think that a calculated risk is probably much better than running on Matt Wieters!

So much was made about Chris Davis’ spotty defense last year, however he’s been solid throughout the spring and thus far in 2013 at first base – until last night. Aaron Hicks reached on a Davis error (when the ball went through his legs “Billy Buckner style”) in the ninth inning. Justin Morneau singled Hicks home following a Josh Willingham walk, and Minnesota took a 6-5 lead which ended up being the final. That winning run was off of closer Jim Johnson, and an unearned one at that. As I said above Johnson took the loss, but he was more of a victim of circumstance than anything else. That’s the first error that Chris Davis has made in the regular season (or in spring), and I don’t think many fans or even coaches are in a position to criticize him at this point with how he’s started the season.

I suppose that one might look at the first few games and see some starters that aren’t going deep into games, and a bullpen that looks just a bit more susceptible than it did last year. As much as was made about the record in one-run games last year, the Orioles’ two losses on the season have both been by one run (making them 0-2 in one run games in 2013). However I also think that people should put the first five games into that specific context. I suspect that Showalter’s plan was to ease them into the season in terms of innings pitched, lest someone be killing it out on the mound. So as we begin the second turn through the rotation I would expect the innings pitched to go up. As for the pen, that’s tough to diagnose. As great as they were last year, I would point to the opening day game where they entered the ninth inning with a 4-o lead and the final ended up being 4-2 (with the go-ahead run on base in the end). That said, the Orioles’ pen pitched 6.1 innings last night and gave up one unearned run. Granted that ended up being the difference in the game, however in general you’ll take that stat.

Jason Hammel heads back to the mound for his first home start of 2013 this afternoon in the finale against Minnesota. He’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s 23-year old southpaw Pedro Hernandez, who’s being called up from the minors to make the start after Cole De Vries was sent to the DL with a forearm strain. Hernandez was obtained by Minnesota (along with Eduardo Escobar) via trade from the ChiSox last year in exchange for Francisco Liriano.

HomeToday is autism awareness day at the yard, which I want to mention because it’s a cause very close to my heart. Autism is an affliction which has touched my own family in that it affects two of my first cousins. The following amenities will be on display at today’s game:

  • Quiet Room: Fans looking to get some reprieve for a few innings can go to Suite 73. Families can still watch the game from this area, but in a quieter, climate controlled suite.
  • Pre-game Ceremonies: Prior to the game, the Orioles will recognize children diagnosed with Autism who have been great ambassadors for autism awareness
  • Information Booth: For more information on Autism Speaks, stop by the Orioles Community Booth inside of Gate D to learn more about autism, Autism Speaks, and resources in our community

Fans who do not yet have tickets buy would like to go to the game can purchase discounted upper reserve tickets for $13 by visiting www.orioles.com/tix/autism. $5 of every ticket sale through this site will go to benefit Autism Speaks.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Chris Tillman

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