As was stated yesterday, Chris Tillman grew up in Anaheim, California. Presumably it had to be kind of an exciting place to grow up with both the Angels and Disneyland in the neighborhood. Also presumably, he had to have seen his his share of Angels games at “the big A,” perhaps even a few against the Baltimore Orioles. So I would think all of that had to be in his head when he took to the mound for the first time in his professional career in his hometown. I know that speaking for myself, it would be a humbling experience, and probably a little surreal. Tillman’s line: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K.
We saw some drama early on in the game when after two walks Tillman allowed a single with two on to Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout appeared to be coming in to score, however Nick Markakis teamed up with Matt Wieters to nail the youngster at home plate. That set an early tone to a game that the Orioles would dominate from start to finish. Nolan Reimold scored on Manny Machado‘s RBI-single in the third inning, and the Orioles led 1-0. Adam Jones would score on Chris Davis‘ RBI-double in the sixth, and Reimold would score again in the seventh to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead on a Nick Markakis RBI-double.
Anaheim starter Joe Blanton actually matched Tillman pitch-for-pitch to a certain point. Both pitchers went eight innings, however Blanton tired out at the end. This is the second consecutive night that the Orioles have been held at bay by a pitcher who had been struggling. After Blanton departed with the O’s leading 3-0, Nate McLouth sent a deep shot to center following a Reimold infield single. The ball going over the wall all but sealed the game for the O’s, although Albert Pujols would homer off of closer Jim Johnson in the last of the ninth to put the final score at 5-1. (Johnson had already been warming up when McLouth hit the home run, however he hadn’t appeared in a game since Saturday in Oakland so Buck Showalter went ahead and played him.)
This was perhaps the best start of Chris Tillman’s still young career. Besides the longevity in the game and the three hits, the thing that sticks out for me is how many first pitch strikes that were thrown. Granted he was pitching against a lineup that’s keenly aware of the fact that they’re supposed to be much better than their record indicates, and it’s possible that they’re pushing a bit too much. However that’s exactly what can happen when a pitcher attacks the strike zone as opposed to tentatively nibbling. That makes a big difference sometimes. The affect of Trout being thrown out at home plate early in the game probably can’t be understated either. That could have been a totally different game had the Orioles trailed early. One thing is certain however; they wouldn’t have given up in the game.
The series continues tonight at 10 PM eastern time as Miguel Gonzalez returns to the scene of his first big league start last year to pitch against Anaheim. He’ll be opposed by Jason Vargas, who’s coming off his best start of the season last Sunday against Seattle. This is good news for Orioles fans, as this will be the final 10 PM game of this incredibly long western road trip for the Orioles. Tomorrow’s game is at 4 PM, and Sunday at 3:30 before the Orioles head home for an off day and then open up a brief three-game homestand with Kansas City coming to town.