If this season’s going to amount to anything for the Baltimore Orioles, Chris Tillman‘s going to have to have a good year. Unfortunately 2018 got off to an unofficially inauspicious start for Tillman this afternoon with a tough first outing against Minnesota. Tillman’s line: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 1 K.
The six walks are a huge issue, two of which were bases-loaded walks with nobody down to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead. LaMarr would add a sac fly-RBI, and Granite a bunt RBI-single to run the score to 4-0. Tillman was responsible for all of those runners, although he was lifted after giving up the two walks with the bases loaded.
After the game, Tillman indicated that his misses were either above or below the strike zone. Obviously running into a very patient Minnesota team didn’t help (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
I didn’t really feel like I was fighting anything. I had a lot of misses down below the zone. It wasn’t in and out or arm side or glove side. It was north and south, which you’d think would be an easy adjustment, but kept missing down, which, when it’s down they’re going to take more as opposed to when it’s elevated. I felt like there were a lot of guys who were waiting to see the ball up and when they didn’t, more times than not took it.
I mentioned above how Minnesota’s patient. Keep in mind that they’re a small ball team. Whereas had Tillman been pitching against New York or Boston today (slugging teams), that result might have been different. But to a team like Minnesota, if they walk in one run that means their opponent has to score two to beat them. Same is true with a sac fly or an RBI on a bunt.
And luckily for the Orioles, they did score two – and then some. Pedro Alvarez smacked an RBI-single in the fourth the cut the Minnesota lead to 4-1. One inning later, the Birds found themselves within one run as Austin Wynns‘ two-run homer cut the Minnesota lead to 4-3. A Manny Machado RBI-single tied the game at four, however Minnesota did get get the lead back on an RBI-double in the last of the fifth.
But keep in mind…these Orioles are a power-hitting club. Whether it’s regular players, reserves, or Rule 5 guys. Anthony Santander‘s two-run homer in the seventh put the Birds in the lead at 6-5. And it’s moments like that which make me believe that power-hitting is the way to go in this game. Basically, AL East baseball. It’s a lot more efficient than piecemealing runs together here and there.
Reuben Tejada would add an RBI-single in the seventh to run the final to 7-5, as the Birds won for the fifth consecutive game. For what it’s worth, that includes a “doubleheader” of sorts, with this past Sunday being a split squad day. The Oriole victory also snapped a five-game winning streak for Minnesota.
So the question is whether or not we saw Chris Tillman today, or if we’ll see him steadily improve as the end of camp draws near. That outing can’t have sat well with the coaching staff with the Orioles set to break camp two weeks from yesterday. We’ve seen pitchers and field players come along big time from the beginning of camp to this point in spring training. The question is whether or not enough time remains for Tillman to do the same before the beginning of the regular season.
The Orioles return home to Ed Smith Stadium tomorrow for their first game this spring against the New York Yankees. Miguel Castro gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s Chance Adams. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.