There’s a famous saying in the sports writing biz about cheering the press box.
It is not allowed.
Well, I didn’t hear a peep up here while Chris Tillman was throwing seven scoreless innings in the Orioles’ 6-0 win Friday night, but I’m willing to bet that just about everyone was cheering silently for a guy who has been to baseball hell and back over the past 13 months.
Tillman came into the game with a 9.87 ERA, which did little to differentiate his 2018 performance from 2017 (7.84 ERA). But it hasn’t been the same old song and dance this time around. He had shown modest improvement his previous time out and finally put together a performance that reminded everyone why he was such a big deal around here before his shoulder tweaked and the wheels came off last season.
He beguiled a pretty good Detroit Tigers lineup, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowing just one hit over seven. It might be way too soon to say he’s back, but it was great to see him pitch really well for the first time since he gave up two hits and one run over six innings against the Texas Rangers on July 17.
He didn’t get the win in that game. His last win before Friday night was May 7, his first start last season. It was the first time he pitched as many as seven innings since Aug. 11, 2016.
Tillman has suffered through that long drought without complaint. He has walked off the mound after every frustrating performance and handled himself with class in front of the fans and the media.
He weathered a year of criticism and fan dismay and has done so at an enormous cost. If he could have followed up his strong 2016 season with even a .500 record and a 4.40 ERA last year, he would have earned a big free-agent contract this past winter.
Instead, he took a one-year deal and a $3 million guarantee to stay with the Orioles and try to rebound from that awful experience. It’s too early to say he has done that, but it was certainly good to see that he still has a terrific performance like Friday’s in him.
He’s a good guy. He’s been a great Oriole. He turned in a great performance Friday night when his beleaguered team needed something — anything — to help it get off the mat after one of the worst 25-game starts in franchise history.
Who wouldn’t want to cheer for that?
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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