Chris Tillman made his second major league start tonight and it's obvious he's going through some major growing pains when it comes to the pitching in the majors. First lesson to be learned by young Chris is that it's not as easy to blow his fastball by batters in the majors as it was in the minors. Especially when said fastball is left up in the zone.
But despite his pitching line (6 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K), it wasn't all bad news. Tillman's natural talent is obvious, and it's easy to imagine a time in the near future when he's dominating big league hitters on a regular basis. His curveball was just gorgeous once he started throwing it and of his 3 wild pitches, at least 2 should have been blocked by Matt Wieters. A number of the hits he gave up were pretty cheap, and well, I already mentioned the fast ball.
As I watched Tillman pitch tonight my first thought was, "Is he really ready?" But then I stopped myself. No matter when Tillman got called up to the MLB, he was going to have to take his lumps, and I'd rather he took them this year when the wins and losses don't mean anything. If he can get a feel for pitching in the majors and go into the off season knowing even more and having an idea of what he needs to work on, the Orioles will be better for it. It was a frustrating loss, for sure, but it wasn't a pointless game the way so many in the past have been.
The Orioles hitter faced a tough task tonight with Justin Verlander. Not only is Verlander one of the best pitchers in the game this year, going into tonight he was 7-0 at home with a 1.15 ERA and a 1.021 WHIP. Until tonight, he'd never given up more than 3 runs in an outing at home.
The way the Orioles started the game, you'd never know those stats existed. Brian Roberts led off the game with an absolute shot to right field. It was a great HR. Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis all singled to load the bases for Aubrey Huff. Huff hit a grounder to 2nd that looked like a double play, but Aubrey hustled down the line and beat the throw as Reimold scored the 2nd run of the game. Ty Wigginton followed with a double down the third base line to score Adam Jones, and the slumping Luke Scott slapped an opposite field double to score Jones and Wiggy. The O's scored 5 runs against Verlander in the first inning, more runs than Verlander had allowed at home all year. That'd be all the Orioles would get against Verlander as they managed just three more hits and one walk over the final 8 innings. In the end Verlander pitched 8 innings with the first being the only blemish on his night. He struck out 8 and walked just 1, throwing 119 pitches.
Clete Thomas is the Tigers own personal Oriole Killer for 2009. Going into tonight, Clete Thomas was batting .264/.337/.448 with 6 HR and 8 2B. In 5 games against the Orioles this season, including tonight, Thomas is 8 for 19 with 3 HR, 2 2B, 4 R, and 6 RBI. And his name is Clete. I rest my case. So, this Clete Thomas did what he apparently does best and hit a walk off HR off of Danys Baez in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Tigers a 6-5 win.
The O's do it all again tomorrow, only this time it's Brian Matusz making his major league debut. It's still a little shocking that two-thirds of the holy trinity are in the majors. I'm having a little trouble processing it, actually. I suppose the more we see them the less weird it will get. Matusz faces off against Jarrod Washburn, making his Tigers debut.