The Orioles lose to the White Sox, 5-2, dropping the series, and falling below .500 again with a record of 32-33. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles watched a chance at a series split and their hopes of returning home above .500 disappear in a mess of a sixth inning. That spoiled what might have been Chris Tillman's best start of the season and made the Orioles 5-2 losers to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
Tied at 1 entering the sixth, Tillman's own narration of what happened was plenty succinct.
"Made a pretty crappy pitch to the leadoff guy, walked the next guy, I blow the bunt play," Tillman said. "Then we get an out and did not do anything from there."
The leadoff man in that inning, Matt Davidson, pestered the Orioles (32-33) all series and opened the inning with a double. Tillman issued his only walk of the day to the next batter, Yolmer Sánchez, before catcher Kevan Smith rolled a firm bunt between third base and the pitcher's mound.
Tillman broke toward home and ran past the ball. Third baseman Manny Machado retreated to his base. Everyone was safe.
"It's a play that Chris probably needs to make," manager Buck Showalter said. "Manny made a good read on it, I thought. I thought Chris committed a little too much straight ahead. Knowing in that situation where they're trying to bunt the ball, we've got to anticipate that a little bit better."
Tillman recorded his season-high sixth strikeout once the bases were loaded, but ceded a two-run single to Melky Cabrera and exited the game.
Reliever Jimmy Yacabonis came in and threw 20 pitches — 13 balls — while walking three and allowing a sacrifice fly, with both of Tillman's inherited runners scoring. He opened his fifth hitter with a ball and was pulled mid-batter by Showalter for Miguel Castro, who recorded the game's last seven outs for the Orioles.
Showalter said Yacabonis "has had a track record of having command issues. It's kind of carried over here, but he's been able to get away with it at the level behind."
Spoiled start: Catcher Caleb Joseph said he reminded Tillman after his last batter and again in the clubhouse that he did a "tremendous job."
Even though he was tagged with five runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings and took the loss to drop to 1-5, Tillman agreed.
"I think it's much better, to tell you the truth," he said. "A pitch here and there could have been better, but for the most part, it was a step in the right direction. … I felt real good, actually. Coming out of the bullpen, felt real good with all my pitches, both windup and stretch for the most part. Today felt good."
Showalter saw similar improvement, which he has been badly hoping for from the typically steady veteran.
"I know it sounds very cliché-ish, but just about everybody's outings worked off the fastball command," Showalter said. "He was a little crisper, too. He really got down the line, not spinning off there. When he got out of whack with consecutive two, three balls, you'd see him spinning off his front side a little bit. It's something he and [pitching coach Roger McDowell] have really been working on, and that's something that's really been a challenge for him, staying downhill.
"Chris has got a good track record and he's going to pitch better, and hopefully today is the start of that. … He gave us a chance. We're just not scoring any runs."
On the spot: Left-hander David Holmberg isn't a regular in the White Sox rotation, but his 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball were more than some of the fixtures in the Orioles rotation typically provide.
The Orioles' first run was charged to him after he departed with two on and one out in the fifth inning, but there wasn't much in the way of mounting threats against him. They had one man reach in three of the first four innings before finally breaking through for a run.
Their second run was of the consolation variety, on a solo home run by designated hitter Welington Castillo in the ninth inning. The Orioles managed nine hits, but left nine men on, with a third straight multi-hit game for center fielder Adam Jones (2-for-3) as well as two hits each for Castillo and Joseph.
Enough with this guy: When Davidson turned around Tillman's second pitch of the fourth inning for a home run to left field, it was his fourth in four games this series, with the biggest being Tuesday's grand slam off Alec Asher.