One would be really hard-pressed to say that Chris Tillman isn’t deserving of win #15 at this point. He’s been let down on several occasions in the past couple of weeks in terms of getting that elusive victory. Yesterday he might have pitched one of the best games of his career, and yes folks I recognize that I’ve probably said that a few times this year. Tillman’s line: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K. In playing against the team from Moneyball, Tillman pretty much proved that theory in that three base runners should yield one run. Through eight innings Tillman had five guys on base, equaling one run.
All four of Tillman’s pitches were getting over for strikes yesterday, and he mowed down Oakland hitters left and right. Unfortunately for Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland starter Jarrod Parker matched him pitch-for-pitch. The Orioles were only about to muster eight base runners on Parker during the course of the game (five hits and three walks). Good pitching usually shuts down good hitting, and that was proven in this game. These two teams put up a total of 16 runs combined on Friday night, yet amongst the two of them they only had three yesterday. It’s similar to the NFL, whereby a good defense will normally shut down a good offense. That means that if you put Tom Brady up against the ’85 Chicago Bears’ defense…advantage: Bears.
Ryan Flaherty got the scoring started in the last of the third with a solo homer onto the flag court in right field. We didn’t know it at the time, but that lone run would stand up for a few innings as the game unfolded. The Orioles would muster runners into scoring position a few times, but Parker would always shut the door and not allow those runs home. While it’s easy to point at the Orioles’ going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position yesterday, that was not the story of the game. (Oakland was only 1-for-4 with RISP.) The overall game story was the unbelievably great pitching that we saw from both Tillman and Parker.
Tillman allowed a double to Kurt Suzuki in the sixth, and Suzuki would later score on Lowrie’s RBI-double to tie the game at one. Tillman would hold Oakland at bay just as Parker did with Oriole bats, and after the eighth inning we saw him getting handshakes and slaps on the back in the dugout (indicating that his day was over). Darren O’Day came in to pitch the ninth, and he seemed to have a few problems hitting the strike zone on Coco Crisp to lead off the inning. Ironically, on what appeared to be ball four home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth gave O’Day the benefit of the doubt and awarded strike one. Crisp hit the next pitch onto the flag court at Camden Yards, giving Oakland a 2-1 lead. The Birds went down in order in the last of the ninth, and Oakland evened the series at one.
Again, there’s not much you can say about this game other than it was hard-fought and incredibly well-pitched. It’s a shame that someone has to lose games like this, however this time around it ended up being the Orioles on the losing end. One thing of note about the aforementioned Kurt Suzuki; he was traded to the Washington Nationals last year during the season when they needed catching help. At the time many Orioles’ fans told me they were happy about that because he always hit the Birds hard when they’d play Oakland. Earlier this past week Washington traded Suzuki back to Oakland for a pitching prospect; one has to wonder if Oakland didn’t look at the Orioles this weekend on their schedule and decide to make the swap!
This sets up a huge rubber match at the yard this afternoon, as the Orioles need to win to get back to within two games of Oakland for the final wild card spot. The Orioles really have a great opportunity to make up a lot of ground quickly this week. They have an off day tomorrow, however Oakland goes to Detroit (which is a tough task for anyone). The Orioles of course head to Boston on Tuesday, which provides for a great opportunity for them to make up ground in the division. An Oriole victory this afternoon combined with a Detroit win tomorrow night would bring the Birds to within 1.5 games of the second wild card spot. Cleveland is currently ahead of them as well (by half a game), however the Orioles will have their say in that matter the week after next when they play the Indians. Scott Feldman gets the start for the Orioles today, following his impressive outing last Sunday against Colorado. Oakland will counter with Sonny Gray, who’s 1.44 ERA is certainly impressive, although this will only be his fourth major league start.