Peter Schmuck

Orioles starter Chris Tillman needs to get over the hump tonight

Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman delivers against the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards on April 8, 2016.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman looked like he was going to deliver an overpowering performance on Opening Day, but the weather turned sour and he had to settle for two very impressive innings against the Minnesota Twins.

Since then, he has delivered one winning performance against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he gave up just four hits over five innings and one uneven outing against the Texas Rangers that started out well before unraveling in a five-run sixth inning.


It's obvious from those two starts that Tillman is healthy and throwing the ball well, but he still needs to take his performance to a midseason level and pitch through the sixth inning and beyond. He'll get that opportunity tonight, but the Toronto Blue Jays have not been very cooperative when Tillman is on the mound.

He has started against the Jays 20 times in his career and has a 4-10 record and 5.79 ERA. That's the second-most starts against any team and his highest career ERA against an AL East opponent.


Of course, those numbers are heavily influenced by a dismal 0-4 performance (11.72 ERA) last season, when the Jays were at their best and Tillman clearly was not. But he also struggled against Toronto in 2014 and hasn't had a winning record against the Jays since his 16-win season in 2013.

He's got a chance to turn the page on that tonight and secure another divisional series win for the Orioles. He did not throw more than 86 pitches in either of his two uninterrupted starts, so he should be fresh enough to get deep into the game if he can maintain consistent command of his fastball and offspeed stuff.

The club's chances of sustaining this promising start depend heavily on Tillman bouncing back from last year's inconsistent performance to re-establish himself as the anchor of the Orioles rotation.

He'll face veteran right-hander Marco Estrada, who has pitched well against the Orioles in a much more limited time frame (since 2015 was his first season in the American League). All of his appearances against them came last season when he made six appearances against the O's, including four starts, and was 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA.