I mean, did someone tell them that it's GOOD to give up home runs? Because they gave up 3 more today and 19 of the last 20 runs scored against them have come on home runs. The Orioles have now given up 157 home runs this year, most in the American League (2nd is the Angels with 144). In the majors, only Milwaukee has given up more at 162.
Tonight Chris Tillman made his fifth major league start against Jeff Niemann, who's doing a bang up job for the Rays this year. Both Tillman and Neimann looked strong today but young Chris again struggled with the home run.
Tillman continues to show a mix of talent and inexperience as for most of the game he looked just great. He started the game off shaky, retiring the leadoff batter before a Carl Crawford double and two walks to load the bases. Pat Burrell flew out to end the inning with no runs, but the Rays worked Tillman for 31 pitches. Tillman then settled down and didn't allow his next hit until the 4th inning, unfortunately a home run off the bat of Pat Burrell in to the left field corner. Gregg Zaun followed the HR with a single but Tillman ended the inning by striking out Gabe Gross on a nice curveball. After an uneventful 5th inning, Ben Zobrist led off the 6th with a HR for the Rays' 2nd run of the game. Tillman ended the 6th inning having given up 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, with a pitch count of 100. I assumed that would be the end of the line for Tillman, but he returned to the mound in the 7th and on his first pitch, B.J. Upton homered to left field. One pitch, one extra run, and THEN Tilman's night was over.
Chris Tillman pitched a good game tonight although it's hard to overlook three home runs, even if they all were solo shots. All three were hit on the first pitch of the at-bat, and all were fastballs over the middle of the plate. Burrell and Zobrist's home runs were on pitches up in the zone, while Upton's home run pitch was right down broadway. Those pitches will be crushed on a regular basis by major league players, as Tillman is quickly learning. Other than those three pitches, Tillman's game was a different story. After the first inning he didn't give up any walks and only two hits other than the HRs. I'm sure Tillman feels lousy about the end result but it wasn't bad, and his mistakes were easy to identify which hopefully means easy to fix. Cla Meredith and Chris Ray closed out the game for Tillman, each pitching a scoreless inning.
Jeff Niemann pitched well tonight and the Orioles were unable to capitalize on the few opportunities that came their way. The 5th inning was their biggest chance when they loaded the bases with no outs but were unable to score even one run. A Matt Wieters single, a double by Melvin Mora, and an infield single/misplay by Niemann put Felix Pie on first to load the bases. #9 hitter Cesar Izturis lined a pitch up the middle that looked like a hit until Jason Bartlett came out of nowhere, knocking the ball down almost catching it on a dive. The runners had to hold and Bartlett alertly threw home for the force. Then with 1 down, Brian Roberts hit into a double play to end the inning. It was very frustrating, but given the same situation again I'd be happy to see Brian at the plate, in fact the only batter I'd rather see would be Nick Markakis. Roberts has only grounded into three double plays all year (well, four now), lowest on the team among regulars despite having more plate appearances than every player other than Markakis.
It's hard to be too tough on Roberts as he was responsible for the O's only run via an 8th inning HR, his 11th of the year. He also hit his major league leading 46th double in the 3rd but was stranded at second. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Luke Scott were all hitless on the night, and it's tough to score runs when you 3-4-5 hitters don't get on base at all. Nick's 38 game on base streak came to an end as he failed to reach for the first time since the 4th of July.
The O's look to avoid the sweep tomorrow with a pitching matchup of Brian Matusz vs. James Shields. Matusz is trying to get on track after two bad outings in which he pitched to a combined line of 8.1 IP, 18 H, 9 ER, 5 BB, 8 K and looking much different from the Brian Matusz who pitched excellently against Detroit in his major league debut and made us all swoon. Hopefully that's the Matusz we'll see tomorrow.
In minor league news, Jake Arrieta got the win tonight for the Tides, pitching 7 innings with 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, and 6 K. After an uneven start to his AAA career, Jake has now turned in three consecutive good starts and only his second 7 inning outing since being promoted.