Chris Tillman and the entire Baltimore Orioles’ team had a pretty inauspicious start to last night’s game. Tillman loaded the bases and surrendered a run on a Michael Brantley sac fly-RBI, and Cleveland starter Justin Masterson took a perfect game into the fifth inning. Granted that’s only half of the game, however it was starting to get to the point to where people were starting to notice and tap dance around what was going on. Tillman on the other hand danced in a out of trouble throughout the beginning of the game. He fell behind in counts early, allowed base runners, and was on the verge of collapse on several occasions. However he always managed to pitch out of that trouble and ended up back in the dugout. Tillman’s line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 6 K.
The hot-hitting Jason Kipnis smacked a two-run homer for Cleveland in the fifth inning, and that slim 1-0 lead went up to 3-0. However before the Birds could think about coming back they had to first get on base. Adam Jones took care of that in the top of the fifth with a base hit off of the first pitch. From that point onward it seemed that the flood gates had been opened in terms of Oriole base runners. Jones would later score on a fielder’s choice-RBI, but the O’s still trailed 3-1.
While Tillman struggled with his command and struggled to keep the ball down, he was a work horse in the game. He ultimately did what the O’s needed him to do in that he got through the seventh inning. With Troy Patton warming in the bullpen Adam Jones once again led off the last of the seventh and was promptly hit by a pitch. Chris Davis hit the very next Masterson offering into the seats (his major league-leading 28th home run of the year), and suddenly we had a tie game. What we saw with Masterson was pretty much what we saw with Tillman on Monday; he ran out of gas. Unfortunately for him, it happened very quickly and with no real warning. The sad part for Masterson is that he pitched a great game until the seventh inning, and probably deserved to win. But that’s baseball.
Before Cleveland could get anyone up in the bullpen, Masterson ended up putting two more runners on and allowing both of them into scoring position with one out. That brought the number nine hitter, second baseman Alexi Casilla, to the plate. With Brian Roberts playing well in Norfolk on a rehab assignment and being expected to come up to the O’s perhaps this weekend, someone (either Casilla or Ryan Flaherty) might have to go. Casilla obviously is not known for his power, however in a flash he created a bit of Orioles magic
when his team needed it. Casilla’s three-run homer off of the tiring Masterson thrust the O’s into the lead, and put Chris Tillman in line to win the game.
Cleveland did make things interesting in the ninth inning, with the tying run coming to the plate at one point. However Jim Johnson continued Tillman’s tightrope balancing act and pitched out of it. With the 6-3 win one could say that it was a big win for the Birds, who had lost four straight. I’m consistently amazed at how quickly games can change; Masterson went from having a potential perfect game/no-hit bid to being the losing pitcher. However as I said, that’s baseball. To his credit, Tillman seemed to get a bit stronger once he settled in, but the first couple of innings had the potential to be a rout. However when you can swoop in and win a game when you aren’t at your best, you must be doing something right.
The series continues tonight at the yard with Jason Hammel getting the ball for the O’s. Hammel of course is coming off of a decent start on Friday night in Toronto, however one in which he gave up a two-run homer at the end of his outing to net Toronto the win. The O’s will face Cleveland’s Scott Kazmir, who ate them up routinely when he was in Tampa. However as we all know, this is a different Orioles team than what we saw back then.