The Orioles haven’t had much of a September, but they wrapped up their home schedule with an 9-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday before an announced 23,424 at Camden Yards.
Chris Tillman took his place on a few hours’ notice and pitched the first four innings, allowing four runs on six hits before giving way to a parade of relievers. Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer also had a rocky start, allowing four runs in the first inning and leaving the game soon after allowing the two-run shot to Hardy.
Chances are that Hardy and Tillman were making their final appearances at Oriole Park as members of the home team.
Hardy has a large team option remaining on the contract he signed during the 2014 playoffs, and there is little chance it will be renewed. Tillman is set to become a free agent this winter and will be coming off the worst season of his career, so it is unclear whether the Orioles will make an attempt to keep him.
“Let’s see what the future brings from both those guys,’’ manager Buck Showalter said. “They’ve got some good baseball ahead of them, both of them.”
The Rays scored in the first inning on a leadoff homer by Kevin Kiermaier and added three runs in the second — two of them on a long home run by catcher Jesús Sucre. Tillman retired nine of the last 11 batters he faced and left after throwing 65 pitches. The Orioles have five games left, so it’s possible he’ll make one more start.
“Those last couple innings, I felt pretty good about it,’’ Tillman said. “Even earlier, when Sucre did some damage on the changeup, I felt like it was a pretty good changeup and if I’d had that changeup all year we’d be having a completely different story.”
Showalter concurred with that assessment and pondered what next year might look like once Tillman has had a regular offseason throwing program and full spring training.”
“I thought the last inning was crisp,’’ Showalter said. “He located some fastballs. In fact, he said up in the runway, ‘There it was. I finally got it.’ I thought each inning, he got a little bit better. He’s going to be a good pitcher next year.”
The Orioles had a number of offensive highlights. Adam Jones drove home the first two runs of the game with a solid double to right field, and Chris Davis also drove in two runs. Rookie catcher Chance Sisco made his first major league start behind the plate and hit his second home run since joining the big league club as a September call-up.
Trey Mancini singled in the eighth inning to extend his career-long hitting streak to 14 games and designated hitter Pedro Álvarez had his second multi-hit game in just his third start of the year.
Fast start: Thanks to RBI hits by Jones, Davis and Alvarez, the Orioles jumped out to a quick start against Archer, scoring four times in the first inning. That rally represented the most runs the Orioles have scored in the first inning since Aug. 12, when they scored seven runs in the first inning against the Athletics in Oakland.
Rude greeting: Tillman stepped into Sunday’s start to replace Bundy and did not get a moment to get comfortable on the mound. Kiermaier jumped on the first pitch of the game and drove it over the center-field fence for his third career leadoff home run.
Final attendance: Sunday’s announced crowd of 23,424 brought the final 2017 Orioles attendance total to 2,028,424. That’s the lowest total since the Orioles drew 1,755,461 in 2011 — the last time they finished with a losing record.