It was a busier night on “Tillman Island” than Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles probably would have liked. Keep in mind (and I’ve said this before) that a pitcher’s going to have 10 good starts, 10 poor, and 10 in between over the course of a season. Put last night’s start in the “in between” category; Tillman’s line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 5 K. In fact, generally speaking if your starter gives up six runs you have a better shot at losing than winning. Tillman was able to get a few big outs, and his pitches did have a bit of pizzazz here and there – just not as much as normal. However if a starting pitcher comes with 10 good and 10 poor starts almost built in, it’s safe to say that those 10 in between starts is where the success and/or failure of his year lies. If the team can win most of those games, they’ll be pretty good.
The Orioles almost smacked Seattle out of the park early on, when the first three hitters reached base after working the count (including two walks). Adam Jones cleared the bases with an RBI-double, and the Orioles scored a third run on the play on a Raul Ibanez error. Matt Wieters chimed in with a sac fly, and the Orioles had a 4-0 lead. However Seattle chipped away and got themselves back in the game – at various points. Michael Saunders hit a two-run homer in the third, which was followed later in the inning by a Kendry Morales RBI-single to cut the Orioles’ lead to 4-3. However that was only the top of the inning; in the last of the third Chris Davis hit his 40th homer of the season (onto Eutaw St no less) to open up a 5-3 lead for the Birds. Davis appears to be coming out of his “lull” and he seems to be picking up right where he left off. With two months left to play, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that he’ll join Brady Anderson (1996) as the only Orioles to hit 50 homers in a season.
An inning after Davis’ shot, Ryan Flaherty hit what appeared to be a homer onto the flag court in right, however it was originally ruled a double. When Buck Showalter asked for a review, the umpires ruled the ball had cleared the scoreboard and the Birds had a 6-3 lead. But let’s not forget that this Seattle team is better than their record indicates. Granted they suffered a 9th inning meltdown and gave up six runs to lose to Boston on Thursday, but the other side of that is that they put up seven runs in the game. They chipped away at the Orioles and kept the pressure on them all night; Quintero’s homer in the fifth made it 6-4, which forced Adam Jones to score Manny Machado with an RBI-single in the last of the inning to put the lead back to three (7-4). Michael Morse‘s RBI-double in the sixth added another in Seattle’s column, and he later scored on a Saunders sac fly. While this charade taxed Orioles’ pitching and the bullpen, it was also good for the Orioles. They found themselves in a dog fight against a team that wasn’t about to relent, which is a situation in which they’ll find themselves a lot in the next two months (and perhaps beyond) as the pennant race heats up.
However the straw that broke the camel’s back – in theory – came in the last of the sixth. Following
three straight singles to load the bases, Nate McLouth came to the plate. McLouth responded to the bases loaded situation by hitting the first grand slam of his career, and putting the O’s ahead 11-6. Seattle would add on two solo homers in the eighth (Kendry Morales and Michael Morse), however the five-run lead was ultimately too much for them to overcome. Jim Johnson allowed one base hit in the ninth, but that was followed by a double-play and a groundout to end the game, and the O’s had an 11-8 victory in the first game of three.
It’s easy to say that Tillman lacked some luster in this game, and it’s also easy to point out that the bullpen seemed to as well. However I’d go back to my point that this Seattle team isn’t quite as bad as their record indicates. They do have some pop in their bats, and they showed that last night. But again, these are the types of games in which the Orioles are going to find themselves as we head down the stretch for the next two months so it was good for them to get a taste of it now. As a matter of housekeeping, Brian Roberts has been placed on the three-day paternity list as he and his wife have been expecting the couple’s first child. (Best wishes to the Roberts family!) Reliever Steve Johnson was activated from the DL to take Roberts’ place on the roster, so the Birds do have a long bullpen for the weekend.
The O’s had a productive night in the standings as well; Boston and Tampa both lost, as did Cleveland. So the Orioles are now 4.5 games out of first place, and 3.5 games behind second place Tampa. They also moved ahead of Cleveland and back into the final wild card spot in the playoffs. Scott Feldman will take to the mound tonight in game two of this series for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Seattle’s Erasmo Ramirez.