Yes, the Jays boast arguably the most dangerous lineup in baseball, and they’re paving their way to an American League East division title, but the way the Blue Jays have given Tillman fits this year is bizarre.
And in the Orioles’ 10-4 series-finale loss to the Jays, Toronto battered the Orioles’ Opening Day starter yet again. Tillman lasted one batter into the fourth inning and allowed a season-high three home runs — all on two-strike counts.
After allowing six runs on eight hits, Tillman is 0-4 with a 15.50 ERA this season in five starts against the Blue Jays. He is 9-7 with a 3.66 ERA in 21 starts against the rest of baseball.
“Just execute the pitch,” Tillman said. “This team is good at putting quality swings on mistakes. Some other teams aren't capable of that, but these guys are.”
The defeat sealed the Orioles’ fifth straight series loss and damaged the team’s already-bleak playoff hopes. The Orioles (65-71) head to New York for a three-game series against the Yankees having lost 14 of their past 17 games.
The Orioles are 61/2 games out of the second AL wild-card spot — six teams are between them and the Texas Rangers — with 26 games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s about the reality,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “You look at the standings and you see where you’re at and you’re like, all right, you have to play this type of ball in order to extend your season. When we lose, we have to win three more. … Losing, at this point and time, doesn’t give us any help. We need to reel off a winning streak.
“There’s no quit. Until the time you’re mathematically eliminated, till that day, you’ve got something to fight for.”
The Orioles, however, are much closer to the AL East cellar than a playoff spot. They will enter Monday just one game ahead of the last-place Boston Red Sox.
After pounding the Blue Jays, 10-2, in the series opener Friday, the Orioles were outscored by Toronto, 15-5, the past two days at the Rogers Centre in front of sellout crowds.
In five games against Tillman, the Blue Jays (78-58) are hitting an eye-popping .407. The nine homers Tillman has yielded to the Blue Jays this season equals the number he’s allowed in his other 21 starts this season combined.
Tillman (9-11) hasn’t gotten out of the fifth inning in any of his three starts at the Rogers Centre this season, allowed no fewer than six runs in each of those outings and posted an unsightly 19.73 ERA in Toronto.
“It's a lineup where you have to execute consistently,” Tillman said. “You know, I make two or three good pitches in a row and I make a mistake and they make me pay. You know it's a team that you have to have pretty good command to both sides with all your pitches. ... I was spotty. Some pitches were good, then I'd make a mistake and they made me pay.”
Tillman was angrier at himself for being unable to execute pitches than at anything the Blue Jays have done to him.
“I know if I go out there and make the pitch I need to make, then most of the time I'll be successful,” Tillman said. “It's just, you get deep in a count and you need to make a pitch and you don't, they’re good at putting really good swings on pitches you're not making.”
Ryan Flaherty followed with a two-run homer into the second deck in right field, his seventh home run of the season. Reimold added a solo homer in the top of the ninth off Toronto reliever Roberto Osuna.
There weren’t many highlights for the Orioles otherwise. Jimmy Paredes’ two-out, RBI double off the left-field wall in the sixth scored Jones to cut Toronto’s lead to 6-3, but Orioles reliever Chaz Roe yielded three runs in the bottom half of that inning.
Orioles nemesis Jose Bautista then lined a full-count 94-mph inside fastball into the second deck in left field, his 33rd of the season.
Troy Tulowitzki, one of the Blue Jays’ key trade-deadline acquisitions, also hit a two-run home run off Tillman, this one with one out in the third on a 2-2 pitch. And No. 9 hitter Kevin Pillar opened the fourth inning with a solo homer to left on a 2-2 pitch.
“Chris, we've seen what a quality pitcher he's been for us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It's not something they’re doing as much as where Chris is getting the ball. I think there were six pitches he's trying to go down and away the ball leaks middle in. You're going to pay that price every time.”
Bautista also drove in a run in the sixth with an RBI double. His five homers and 17 RBIs against the Orioles this season are his most against any opponent.
The Orioles were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They stranded six baserunners, including four in scoring position.
Estrada (12-8) allowed just two hits over five innings, but walked four (one intentional).
“We couldn’t take advantage of them,” Showalter said. “He wasn’t able to get to the changeup as much as he normally does because of the command and we couldn’t take advantage of it. That was frustrating. They’ve added two or three pieces to their bullpen so you better take advantage of whatever you can early because the back end of their bullpen has really been shored up because of the deals and the money they spent.”
After walking Manny Machado to open the game — Machado went to second on a wild pickoff throw by catcher Dioner Navarro — Estrada issued a two-out intentional walk to Chris Davis, then struck out Jonathan Schoop to end the first inning.
The Orioles also put two on with no outs in the third, but Gerardo Parra flied out and Jones hit into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.
“He was getting behind some guys, getting back into some hitters counts and getting out of them,” Jones said. “We grinded and gritted it out, had some walks against him, but he just did what he had to do and made some good pitches to get some double plays. Double plays are inning killers. … We worked him, but we weren’t able to muster any runs.”