With their bags packed, the Orioles headed home after going a respectable .500 on their three-city, 10-game road trip.
But Thursday night’s loss, which snapped the Orioles' four-game winning streak, left the team both frustrated and startled. Right-hander Chris Tillman was unable to retire a batter in the second inning for the second time in his past four starts.
And sure-handed shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has won Gold Gloves in back-to-back seasons, committed a career-high three errors, including two that propelled the Rangers to three runs in the seventh inning to break open a tie game.
Nine of the 11 batters Tillman faced on the night reached base as he was forced from the game with no outs and the Orioles trailing, 5-0, five batters into the second inning. Tillman was charged with five runs and six hits in one-plus inning, walking three and striking out one.
“I throw it away,” Tillman said. “It’s just one of those ones you can’t take anything from. You learn what you need to do better next time. But it’s been a constant battle. It’s evident. I know what needs to be done. Just got to do it.
“It was close. It really was. I got ahead quite a bit and couldn’t make that one key pitch to get that one ground ball or put the guy away. It doesn’t help matters when I’m falling behind and walking guys. That’s not me, that’s not my game. I attack hitters. It’s going to come. It is.”
Tillman was also chased from a game without getting an out in the second inning in a start in Pittsburgh on May 21, allowing eight runs, seven hits and three walks while striking out one in a 9-8 loss to the Pirates.
In Tillman’s last start, he allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros on Saturday. But in the two starts before that and Thursday's outing, he allowed 19 total runs in 7 2/3 innings. Tillman has a 10.50 ERA in the first two innings of starts this season, and he has a 2.49 ERA after that.
"Not outwardly, but you know [frustration is] there,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Chris doesn't like to put his teammates in that situation, and I think all guys understand that it affects a lot of people when we get those short starts. But we've got to figure it out because he's an integral part of what we need to do here."
Tillman, 26, had allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his first nine starts, including his first career complete game in a shutout win over the Kansas City Royals on May 16.
He dealt with some minor groin soreness going into that start in Kansas City, while has raised the question whether he is healthy. But both Tillman and Showalter said he is fine physically.
"He pitched some good games,” Showalter said. “I understand why those questions are asked, because we've all seen the level that he's capable of pitching at, not only last year, but this year. He's been very honest with us, and I think that's what's frustrating for him."
Tillman was originally scheduled to start Saturday, but he was moved to Thursday when right-hander Miguel Gonzalez was scratched with right oblique stiffness. Tillman pitched Thursday on his regular four days' rest.
Three batters into Thursday’s game, Tillman allowed Mitch Moreland to slap a two-run single through the left side of the infield as the Orioles were shifting him to pull.
Michael Choice then crushed a full-count pitch into the Orioles bullpen in left-center field two batters into the second inning.
With the bases empty, Tillman then issued back-to-back walks to No. 9 hitter Rougned Odor and Choo before Andrus hit the first pitch to left field for an RBI single to chase Tillman from the game.
"He was up,” Showalter said. “If you look back through it, changeup up, fastball up. He just didn't make many quality pitches down in the zone."
The Orioles rallied back from a five-run deficit against Texas starter Colby Lewis. Adam Jones drove in three runs, including a two-run double that paced a two-out, three-run rally in the fifth that saw the Orioles tie the game at 5. Jones added a solo homer in the eighth.
Nick Markakis homered in back-to-back games after his two-run homer in the third inning put the Orioles on the scoreboard, 5-2.
With the game tied at 5, the Rangers took advantage of two of Hardy’s three errors to score three runs. Hardy entered the night with just one error in 48 games this season.
“I'm very surprised,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Hardy. “He catches everything he can get to, I've never seen him make a bad throw. Matter of fact, I've really never seen him make an error."
Odor opened the inning with a grounder to Hardy deep in the hole, but Hardy’s wild throw allowed Odor to move to second base.
After Odor moved to third on a groundout, Elvis Andrus hit a ball that Hardy, who was playing in to protect against the run, couldn’t field cleanly for his second error of the inning. Hardy’s throw home to catcher Caleb Joseph was too late to get Odor.
“I had to kind of make a quick throw on [Odor], a quick backhand in the hole,” Hardy said. “I just kind of threw it too low, and the next one I can’t explain. I just missed it.”
Two batters later, right-hander Preston Guilmet entered the game and allowed three consecutive singles to score two more runs and give Texas an 8-5 lead.
“I definitely want to forget about it,” Hardy said. “A couple of throwing errors, a fielding error. If Caleb didn’t made a nice pick on that last one, it would have been four errors. That’s just a night for me I’d like to forget.
“It’s been a long road trip, and it’s felt like a really long road trip, so it’ll be nice to get back home.”