Starter Chris Tillman obviously was still figuring things out in his third start since coming off the disabled list, but it was definitely a step in the right direction on a Friday night when the Orioles had to play past midnight to score a rain-delayed 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.
Tillman pitched five scoreless innings in his debut 12 days earlier, but needed 105 pitches to struggle through 4 1/3 innings his second time out.
This time, it looked like he had it all together as he breezed through the first three innings, but spun out of control temporarily in the fourth. He allowed the first four batters to reach base in that inning on a hit-by-pitch, a walk, a single and a double that the Jays would turn into three runs. But he settled down to pitch six innings and allow three runs on five hits for his first quality start.
The Orioles got even on Welington Castillo’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to get Tillman off the hook and went on to win on his second home run of the night – a line drive into the largely empty left-field bleachers off Blue Jays right-hander Jason Grilli.
It was Castillo’s first career walk-off homer and it came just after midnight in a game that was delayed twice. The start was pushed back 29 minutes by the threat of rain and was interrupted for 58 minutes between the top and bottom of the 10th inning.
When it resumed, Grilli struck out Manny Machado and Chris Davis looking before Mark Trumbo extended the inning with his third hit of the game – an opposite-field fly ball that fell in front of right fielder Jose Bautista. Castillo came up moments later and kicked off a very late Fireworks Night at Oriole Park.
“It felt good to hit a ball like that, especially in the situation we were in," Castillo said. “You know, anything to win a ballgame.”
It was the first time Tillman had ever pitched to Castillo, but they seemed to be on the same page for six innings. Tillman said he felt he could've pitched seventh.
“There was one inning where it kind of got away from me … but [tonight] was much better stuffwise," Tillman said. “I felt good. I told them I could [go back out], but it’s not my decision. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Schoop gets it started: Second baseman Jonathan Schoop took a rare turn in the leadoff spot Friday night, and why not? He came into the game with a .429 career average (9-for-21) against Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez. The only Oriole with better numbers is Davis, who entered the game hitting .444 against Sanchez with four home runs.
Schoop doesn’t possess classic leadoff skills. He walked only twice In his first 109 major league plate appearances in 2013 and 2014 and averages just one walk for every 30 trips. So, what did he do the first time he came up? He walked, of course, and also walked to lead off the fifth for his first multiwalk game since Sept. 11, 2015 and only his third in the major leagues.
Blown squeeze: They don’t call it a suicide squeeze for nothing. The Blue Jays had three runs across in the fourth inning and a runner at third with just one out, but they got a little greedy. Devon Travis broke for the plate on a 1-0 pitch and Tillman threw it too far outside for Darwin Barney to get the bunt down, leaving Travis hung up in a rundown for the second out.
The Jays are playing with a lineup decimated by injuries and a suspension, so they obviously felt like that was their best chance to get the run home with Double-A call-up Anthony Alford on deck.
Double challenge: Manager Buck Showalter twice invoked his manager’s challenge Friday night and was proven right on both. The first time, he challenged a bang-bang play at first base in the second inning that preserved a bases-loaded situation when the out call was overturned, but the decision did not turn out to be pivotal. The second time was a game-saver that negated a tiebreaking run on an apparent strikeout/wild pitch in the seventh inning, but replay showed that Darren O’Day’s pitch hit Justin Smoak, making it a strikeout/dead ball that ended the inning.