Tillman surrenders historic homer to A-Rod in Orioles' 4-3 loss to Yankees

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman hasn't had much success at Yankee Stadium in his career. And to say he has struggled against New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez might be an understatement.

In Thursday's series opener against the Yankees, Tillman found himself on the wrong side of history in the Orioles' 4-3 loss to New York. After nearly allowing what would have been a three-run homer to Rodriguez in the first inning – Delmon Young made a catch over the right-field fence – Tillman surrendered the Yankees designated hitter's 661st career homer in his next at bat in the third inning.


With that home run, Rodriguez took sole possession of fourth place on baseball's all-time homer list, passing Willie Mays. He now only trails Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.

In most cases, it would have been a momentous event. But given Rodriguez's checkered past of drug suspensions, including one that cost him the entire 2014 season, the latest historical blast was met with little fanfare. Rodriguez received a curtain call from the home crowd, but the moment quickly came and went.


"I thought the days of curtain calls for me were long gone," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is 6-for-12 with four homers and nine RBIs in his career against Tillman.

"Any time you give up a home run, I don't like it," Tillman said. "He's one of the all-time greats. You've got to respect it. Any time you make a mistake to that guy, he's going to make you pay. He pretty much did twice."

The Orioles (12-14) came to Yankee Stadium having won six of their past seven series against the Yankees, including a three-game set at Camden Yards last month. But their loss to the Yankees (18-11) on Thursday was their third straight to start a six-game road trip in New York City. They lost both games of a two-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Tillman lost his third straight start, allowing four runs on 10 hits (one shy of his career high) in 5 2/3 innings. It marked the second straight game the Orioles rotation did not record a quality start after doing so in each of the previous seven games.

Even though Tillman threw seven scoreless innings in his last start at Yankee Stadium, he owns a 7.30 ERA in The Bronx following Thursday's outing, his highest ERA of any venue in which he has more than one start.

Tillman (2-4) has been the rotation's workhorse with back-to-back 200-inning seasons the past two years, but he has gone six or more innings in just two of his six starts this season and has a 6.25 ERA.

"It all goes back to pitch execution," Tillman said. "Got ahead, got deep in the count, got to have a feel for the hitter, got to execute a pitch, and multiple times tonight, I didn't."

Tillman's outing might have been worse had he not been helped by strong defensive play behind him, something the Orioles lacked in their two losses to the Mets.

Young, not known for his defense, had a fine game in the field. In addition to robbing Rodriguez of a homer in the first inning, Young threw out Severna Park native Mark Teixeira at second base attempting to extend an RBI single into a double that same frame.

With runners at first and second and two outs in the fourth inning, Steve Pearce — making just his fourth professional start at second base — ranged to his left on Jacoby Ellsbury's grounder in the hole and made a diving stop on the edge of the outfield grass before throwing to first in time to end the inning.

"We take pride in our defense," Pearce said. "We have a good defensive team. We work on it. It's just who we are. That's our make-up."


Manager Buck Showalter said the improved defense helped the pitching and supports the offense.

"That's what happened last year a lot," Showalter said. "Very seldom are we going to go out there and overpower a lineup, especially that one, with that many left-handed hitters. And if we do that, that will help us be a lot more consistent."

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph drove in two runs, including one on his third homer of the year — a game-tying solo shot off Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi that tied the game at 2 in the third. Joseph also hit a game-tying RBI double in the fifth to tie the game at 3.

Jimmy Paredes also homered for the Orioles, hitting his fourth of the season with a solo blast into the right-field seats above the Yankees bullpen.

Three batters into the game, Tillman was already in trouble, putting runner on the corners after back-to-back singles by Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.

That's when Rodriguez hit a 2-0 fastball the opposite way. Young camped under the ball and timed his jump perfectly, reaching over the top of the right-field fence to bring it back in. Still, Ellsbury scored from third on the sacrifice fly. Teixeira then drove in Gardner on a hit that hugged the first-base line, but Young played the carom and easily threw out the Yankees first baseman at second.

In the third inning, after the Orioles turned an unconventional 5-6-3 double play on Gardner, Tillman threw a 1-1 curveball that Rodriguez sent into the loading dock area just to the left of Monument Park in center field for his history-making homer.

After Joseph's RBI double tied the game in the fifth, the Yankees rallied for the winning run off Tillman. Two batters after Gardner opened the inning with a double, Teixeira hit his first pitch from Tillman into the right-field corner to score the Yankees outfielder.

"After we scored runs, we gave runs right back," Showalter said. "And that's where you'd like to get some shutdown innings, and Chris will. He's getting there. He had five days off again. I think once we get into a pattern and get him every fifth day, it's going to help. You don't see him miss, he's been wild in the strike zone and that's been a challenge for him."


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