SARASOTA, FLA. — Opening Day starter Chris Tillman, in his go-home start Wednesday before returning to Baltimore to begin the Orioles' season on Monday, finally turned in the type of start that reflects the kind of stuff he says he's had all spring.
It came in a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers that halted the Orioles' six-game unbeaten streak, on a night when the offense was uncharacteristically quiet. But all that matters to Tillman and anyone else in white Wednesday was getting this close to the end of spring training healthy and ready for the season.
"As far as pitch-wise, I think it's been my best spring in a while," Tillman said. "Throughout, I've located or commanded the fastball how I wanted to, other than early on today. I'm excited with where it's at, and look forward to seeing some results here once the season starts."
Tillman, who entered the day having allowed 10 earned runs on 16 hits in 9 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League play, held the Tigers to one run — a solo home run by James McCann — in four innings, walking three but striking out three to lower his ERA to 7.24 for the spring.
Early on, Tillman conceded, he struggled with his command. Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias singled in the first inning and left fielder Justin Upton walked, putting two on with one out. Tillman got out of the jam, but allowed a leadoff home run to McCann to open the second.
He was rarely in trouble from then on. Two more Tigers walked, and Upton singled in the third, but Tillman largely kept them down. He said he was glad to get his command issues ironed out in Sarasota rather than have to do it in Baltimore.
"I was happy with the way things went," Tillman said.
But even Tillman's best start of the season was meaningless given the Orioles' tepid offense. Tigers' fifth starter Shane Greene struck out nine Orioles in six innings, allowing just two bunt singles to Matt Wieters and a single by Chris Davis. The Orioles avoided the shutout when a Paul Janish RBI single in the ninth scored Joey Rickard, who had walked.
Manny giveth, taketh away: Third baseman Manny Machado produced another ho-hum stunner at third base in the fourth inning, diving to his right and throwing off one knee from the foul line to throw out first baseman Andrew Romine at first. Two batters later, however, the Tigers scored when Machado charged a soft grounder, barehanded it, and threw it past first baseman Davis.
Machado was later ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
Double plays on point: For the second night in a row, the Orioles' double play battery of shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Jonathan Schoop was on fire. Hardy turned one of the best he's been a part of this spring when he fielded a ground ball in the left field grass and fired on the run to Schoop, who finished it with a quick transfer to Davis. The Orioles also turned two double plays Tuesday.