The story angle from Thursday night was simple: Chris Tillman is turning into an ace before our very eyes. Or, at the very least, inching closer to that rarified air.
After allowing two runs on six hits – and no walks – in seven innings in the hostile environs of Fenway Park, Tillman is now 15-4 with a 3.61 ERA this season. And on the road, where aces are made, he is 8-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 starts. He’s given up two earned runs or fewer in nine of those. In nine career starts against the Red Sox, Tillman is 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA.
He’s just 25 – and not that far removed from 4A status, limbo between the majors and the minors. What’s allowed him to succeed while other hyped prospects with big arms haven’t is his attitude. He doesn’t get rattled or lose confidence in his abilities. He just pitches.
Here’s what Buck Showalter said about Tillman after the game: “He had that look in his eye. He always had it. Now all the things he's gone through in the process of pitching are starting to kind of click for him, and when he's carrying multiple pitches that he can get over the plate, it's a tough presentation for the opposition. But it all starts with just his approach. This guy is, 'Here's mine. See what you can do.' He's going to come at you and he creates a good angle, some deception in his delivery. I think he trusts himself.”
Tillman’s the first Oriole pitcher to reach 15 wins since Erik Bedard in 2006. That’s a pretty astounding stat.
Nick Markakis was a rookie in 2006. Tillman was a high schooler in Southern California – he was drafted that June in the second round by the Seattle Mariners.
Two years later, Tillman was part of the trade that sent Bedard to Seattle. Incidentally, Bedard spent parts of three seasons with the Mariners. And how many games did Bedard win for Seattle in those three abbreviated seasons?
You guessed it. 15.
Brian Matusz was also one of the heralded “young pitching cavalry” a few years back. He hasn’t panned out as a starter but he has been a solid contributor in the bullpen.
And on Thursday he got maybe the biggest out of the game – fanning David Ortiz in the eighth inning with two outs and Jacoby Ellsbury, the tying run, on third.
Get ready for these numbers: Ortiz is now 1-for-19 with 11 strikeouts against Matusz in his career. Now that’s impressive.
The Orioles may have a new player by the middle of the day Friday. They claimed both outfielder-first baseman Michael Morse from Seattle and outfielder Josh Willingham from Minnesota as part of revocable trade waivers.
They are negotiating with both teams – and my guess is if they land one it is Morse, because he’ll cost less to acquire in terms of players. He’s a free agent after this season; Willingham isn’t. We’ll see soon enough.