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Leadoff walks, lack of offense foil Chris Tillman's bid for 16th win

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

11:42 PM EDT, September 3, 2013

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CLEVELAND — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman didn’t deny it: A pair of leadoff walks that led to runs hurt him in the Orioles' 4-3 loss to Cleveland.

Make no mistake, the Orioles offense –gangbusters one day and inept the next – could have done its part to help. Tillman undoubtedly would have worked better with a lead, as right-hander Bud Norris did in Monday’s series opener when they spotted him five runs in an eventual 7-2 win.

Tillman allowed a run in the fourth inning without allowing a hit, mainly because he issued back-to-back leadoff walks to Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. Well-executed station-to-station baseball led to a 1-0 Indians lead.

In the sixth, he issued a leadoff walk to Santana, and after a double by Michael Brantley, the Indians scored another run on a sacrifice fly.

Strategy backfired on the Orioles later that inning when Tillman intentionally walked Jason Kubel with a Brantley on third with one out to face Yan Gomes, who was the only right-handed hitter in the Indians lineup. Gomes took a hanging breaking ball off the left-field fence for a two-run double.

The Indians extended some counts, battling off foul balls to escalate Tillman’s pitch count, but Tillman knew those walks hurt him.

“They always do,” Tillman said. “Those come back to bite you. They battled in deep counts the whole game. I’ve got to be better than that and win those deep ones. They took advantage of it for sure.

“I wasn’t able to get in a groove,” Tillman added. “You find it, lose it, find it. It’s not easy pitching that way and I think I’ve got to make an adjustment there. I wasn’t able to do it tonight.”

On most nights, Tillman is able to get out of some early-inning mistakes. He’s issued 15 leadoff walks and has allowed 10 homers to leadoff innings. But he’s usually able to settle himself and get out of it, like when he allowed two-out doubles in both the first and second innings and stranded both baserunners.

“Such a fine line there,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Nothing that a couple runs on the board where he’s not having to be so careful [can’t help]. I think that’s where you look at the end of the day. He’s done that before and gotten back. He doesn’t let much get away from him. If we scored a few runs, I think we’d look at his outing much different. He didn’t make many mistakes except that breaking ball to Gomes.”