Orioles spend Independence Day on “Tillman Island”


Chris Tillman came up for a short cup of coffee in the big leagues yesterday before being optioned to double-A Bowie after the series finale with Seattle yesterday. With how Tillman pitched, some people were probably screaming when they found out that he had been sent back down. Tillman’s line: 8.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R (both unearned), 2 BB, 7 K. Perpaps the most impressive part of Tillman’s outing was his velocity and command. Oriole fans had rarely if ever seen Tillman hit the mid to high 90’s. And he was hitting that on the gun into the 9th inning. So why might you ask did the Orioles option him back to the minors? They want to keep Tillman on his pitching schedule so he can take a normal turn in the rotation on Monday. He’s expected to be called back up to the big leagues to pitch coming out of the break.

Adam Jones led off the top of the second with a moon shot to left field. And folks when I say a moon shot, I mean it was tagged hard! Ironically Seattle hits fewer home runs in it’s home yard than any other team, yet the O’s were able to hit two balls out during the series (Davis and Jones). Perhaps more importantly than that home run was Xavier Avery’s sacrifice bunt with two on and nobody down in the third. That moved two runners into scoring position, and Mark Reynolds scored subsequently after J.J. Hardy’s ground out. Granted in a short period of time the Orioles recorded two outs, but they also scored a run. It’s things like that which have been absent over the last month-and-a-half or so for the Birds. When I played basketball for the first time in youth leagues as a kid my Dad told me that each player gets five fouls per game. Those fouls should be used as five tools in a strategic manner to either make the opposition work for their points, or to stop the clock at times. Outs can be used as tools also, and in that case the Orioles used them beautifully.

Chris Davis’ single scored Robert Andino, and suddenly the Orioles had a 3-0 lead. I said this yesterday, but it’s amazing how the win on Tuesday night changed the whole scope of the series. The O’s went from a really bad loss on Monday to a solid team win on Tuesday, and suddenly they had a 3-0 lead early in Wednesday’s game. Had they lost that game on Tuesday night they would have been fighting just to win a game in the series. Instead they were suddenly looking good to win it outright. Mark Reynolds led off the fifth with a double, and he later scored on Robert Andino’s single (after he advanced on a wild pitch) giving the O’s a 4-0 lead.

The story of the game however was Chris Tillman. Not only did he bring his A-List game to Seattle, but MASN’s Gary Thorne commented on numerous occasions that Tillman looked like a totally different pitcher. He had obviously worked on purifying his windup and release point, and in the process he had gained some velocity on his fastball. As I said above, Tillman was still hitting in the high 90’s (approx. 97 MPH) on the 9th inning when he was well above 100 pitches. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Tillman hit that speed in general much less after that many pitches. Buck Showalter sent him back out for the ninth, but he was lifted following John Jaso’s double to center field (with two on and one out).  Jim Johnson did allow those two runners to score (charged to Tillman), however they were both unearned due to a Robert Andino error at second base.

In a corresponding roster move after Tillman was optioned to Bowie, the Orioles promoted first baseman Joe Mahoney from triple-A Norfolk. On the season, Mahoney is hitting .256 with five home runs and 38 RBI. Again, keep in mind that Chris Tillman is only being sent down in order to keep him on his pitching schedule. Normally a Wednesday starter will take to the bump again on Monday, which is when he’ll start for the Baysox. Tillman will certainly be brought back up to be in the rotation coming out of the break…barring one caveat. Tillman has drawn some interest from teams around the league in terms of trades. The Orioles haven’t gotten a suitable offer as of yet, however after yesterday’s start his stock has to be a bit higher. If the O’s get an offer for Tillman between now and next weekend that’s reasonable, they might move him. Barring that, he’ll be back in the Orioles’ rotation sometime next weekend.

The Orioles will enter the final stage of the first half of the season tonight as they open up a four-game set at L.A. (Anaheim). I am a bit baffled at how this will be the Orioles’ second visit to “the Big A,” yet the two teams played only a two-game set at Camden Yards. Nevertheless, Jake Arrieta takes the ball tonight after allowing five runs over 3.2 innings last weekend against Cleveland. Keep in mind that in that entire series (as well as the previous series against Anaheim) the Orioles were going through a stretch where they weren’t scoring runs and they were doing just about everything fundamentally wrong. It’s too early to tell if that string is done, however Arrieta didn’t get much help from the defense behind him in that game. He’ll be opposed by Garrett Richards, who’s been fairly good in general but got beaten around against Toronto last weekend. You want to win every game of course, but I think the O’s would be satisfied with a split in this series. It can’t hurt to start it off with a win tonight.

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