On most days, Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman's performance on Saturday afternoon would have been enough for him to earn his 15th win of the season.
But locked against an opposing pitcher – Oakland's Jarrod Parker – who hasn't lost since a week before Memorial Day – Saturday turned into another disappointing loss for the Orioles (and a no-decision for Tillman).
Over his past four starts, Tillman (14-4) has recorded three quality starts and has a 2.57 ERA. In two of those quality starts, Tillman left the game with the lead, only to watch the Orioles bullpen blow a potential win for him.
On Saturday, in what might have been his most dominating performance of the bunch, he held the A's to one run over three hits over eight innings and matched his career-high with nine strikeouts. He left a tie game only to see reliever Darren O'Day allow a game-winning solo homer to Coco Crisp in the top of the ninth.
Tillman didn't use his cutter on Saturday, but his fastball, changeup and curveball mix were more than enough to quiet Oakland's bats.
"I was able to get in a groove early on," Tillman said. "[Catcher Matt Wieters] kind of got me back in the groove, and I think I kind of just rode with it."
Tillman now leads the Orioles in innings pitched with 160 and had recorded four starts of eight or more innings.
He also has a remarkable record against the AL West. Over his career he is 12-1 with a 2.41 ERA against the division, and since beginning of the 2010 season, he is 11-0 against the West with a 1.94 ERA. In eight career starts against teams from his home state of California – Tillman grew up in Orange County – he is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
Saturday, Tillman – as has been customary this season – grew stronger as the game went along. His fastball reached 95 mph on his 115th and final pitch of the afternoon.
"He does that a lot," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Like I said many times, one of the differences with him is he may get behind 2-0, 3-1, 3-0, and next thing you know he comes right back and he's got back his sink. And we're not having to make those constant mound visits. I'm real proud of him. He's solid. I think the last pitch he threw was 95 mph, I saw on the board real quick while I was trying to see if he was at 140 pitches yet."
I remember talking to people within the organization in the offseason and hearing how important it would be this season for one of their young arms to take a major step forward and become a front-line starter.
Well, it looks like Tillman is doing that. Now if he can just get that elusive 15th win.
"Tillman was just what he's been for us for most of the year," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "We count on him every fifth day to go out there and give us the performances that he's been. Nothing but praises for him right now, he's been throwing the ball lights out. I told him after the game, I said 'It sucks we couldn't get you two runs'. But that's how good Parker was throwing."