Baltimore Orioles: Chris Tillman strong in another tie

Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Orioles battled Tampa to an 8-8 tie, in which Chris Tillman looked incredibly strong.

If this afternoon’s outing vs. Tampa is any indication, the Baltimore Orioles shouldn’t have too many questions about starter Chris Tillman. From the perspective of the Birds’ right-handed starter, it was a lovely day on Tillman Island. Tillman’s line: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K.

Tillman did throw two home runs in the third inning, however overall his stuff was crisp and for the most part he hit his spots. One thing that I noticed was that his off-speed stuff was on point this afternoon. It was those off-speed pitches which allowed Tillman to take a huge leap a couple of years ago in terms of being average and transitioning to being “good.” Tillman on his breaking pitches (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

"I made some good pitches with it and some bad. I think that’s the nature of the game. You live and die by it. It was a good pitch for me throughout today other than a couple. It’s encouraging."

The Orioles loaded the bases in the last of the second, just in time for Pedro Alvarez to come to the plate. And Alvarez picked an opportune moment to hit his

Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

first spring homer in an Oriole uniform, as his grand slam gave the Birds a 4-0 lead. That’s a great sign for the Orioles, as Alvarez was hitting behind Machado in the order (in the two-hole). That gives the Birds an incredibly strong top of the order.

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Baltimore Orioles: Chris Tillman attempting comeback
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Tillman attempting comeback /

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  • Tampa would battle back into the game (in what would become a motif) in the third on two aforementioned homers by Morrison (a two-run shot) and Longoria off of Tillman. However the power potential for this Orioles team manifested itself once again, as Mark Trumbo‘s two-run homer put the Birds ahead 6-3. Caleb Joseph would add an RBI-single beofre the inning was over, and the O’s appeared to be in the driver’s seat.

    I say “appeared to be in the driver’s seat”…appearances can often be deceiving. How many times last season did I say something to the effect that Tampa’s attitude was always anything you can do I can do better? That’s been their modus operandi for some time. They managed to load the bases with help from a Machado error (on an unforunate hop), and Souza’s grand slam tied the game at eight.

    Incidentally, Tampa’s also the type of team that never hesitates to make you pay when you’ve made a mistake. In that case the Orioles gave them an extra out with the Machado error. They took full advantage. A walk here and a base hit there…and suddenly they had the chance to tie the game. And they did; you can’t give teams extra outs.

    Another mark of the Tampa Rays is that they’re capable of doing things that are totally unexpected. The Orioles played Kean Wong to pull with a runner in scoring position and two outs in the top of the sixth. The scouting reports indicated of course that this was the best way to get Wong out. Instead, Wong hit the ball the opposite way to left field for an RBI-single which gave Tampa an 8-7 lead. 

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    But Pedro Avarez wasn’t quite done yet. In the last of the sixth he sent a deep drive off the wall in left center, with a runner already at second base. His RBI-double tied the game at eight. The game remained tied through the ninth inning, which is how it ended. Tampa’s on their way to Havana, Cuba later this evening where they’ll play an exhibition on Tuesday against the Cuban National Team – so there were no extra innings in this game today. This was the Orioles’ fourth tie of the spring.

    Some fans might be concerned about the number of homers the Orioles (namely Tillman) gave up, however keep in mind that many home runs in the spring are wind-aided. Tillman showed improvements by leaps and bounds over his previous start, also against Tampa. And we also saw some great things from the likes of Britton and Matusz towards the end of the game. Britton was so effective that he had to go back into the Orioles’ bullpen to finish his work for the day because he didn’t throw enough pitches in the game!

    Next: Baltimore Orioles: Miguel Gonzalez on the rebound

    The Orioles will enjoy their lone off-day of the spring tomorrow. The gates at Ed Smith Stadium will literally be chained, as the organization wants everyone to take the day off to themselves. The Birds will return to Grapefruit League action on Tuesday when they travel to Fort Myers to take on Minnesota.