The Orioles lost their second game of the season tonight in a heartbreaking fashion. The starting pitching from Chris Tillman was terrible, giving the Orioles two bad starts in a row. And the go-ahead run for the Twins reached base on an ugly error by Chris Davis, reminding us that he's not perfect after all.
Tillman was handed a lead in the very first inning thanks in part to some shaky defense from the Twins pitcher Vance Worley. After Manny Machado singled and Nick Markakis doubled with one out, Adam Jones hit a ball that went all of six feet in front of home plate. Machado raced in to score and by the time Worley got to the ball, he should have just held on to it. There was no way he was going to get Jones at first, but he tried anyway and the ball got away from the first baseman on the poor throw. That allowed Markakis to score and give the O's a 2-0 lead. Jones was stranded at first base as Worley retired Davis and Matt Wieters to end the inning.
Things got ugly for Tillman in the second inning. He only gave up one run, but he was lucky that's all it was. A single by Justin Morneau and double from Ryan Doumit put runners on second and third with no outs, and after a strikeout of Trevor Plouffe, Tillman walked Chris Parmelee to load the bases. Brian Dozier hit a sacrifice fly to center field for the second out, meaning Tillman just had to retire Pedro Florimon, one of the worst hitters in baseball. What he actually did was walk Florimon to re-load the bases, before striking out Aaron Hicks to end the inning. It was one of the worst innings a pitcher could have where only one run scored.
The second inning was ugly, but the third inning was just plain horrible. Tillman walked Willingham with one out and followed that with a single from Morneau. The next three batters each knocked in at least one run as Doumit singled in Willingham, Plouffe hit a long fly ball to center field that Adam Jones made a very good catch on, which resulted in a sac fly. And then Parmelee hit a two-run homer to cap off the four-run inning.
The O's got one run back in the bottom of the inning. Again Machado and Markakis were on base, and this time it was Davis who singled in a run. That made the score 5-3, but Wieters wasn't able to extend the rally.
I knew the Orioles would be able to chip back from their two-run deficit if given the chance, and I really hoped Tillman would be able to get his act together. Well, the Twins didn't score any more runs off of him, but he was far from good. Florimon reached on a bunt single, but was erased on a fielder's choice by Aaron Hicks. Hicks was dancing all over the place and first, and when he finally took off he realized why everyone is always saying that you don't run on Matt Wieters. He was thrown out easily at second base. With two down Tillman then gave up a single to Mauer and walked Willingham again, and that was it for him. Buck Showalter replaced him with T.J. McFarland, who retired Morneau on one pitch.
Tonight was the major league debut of McFarland, the Rule 5 pick from Cleveland. And I have to say, he looked pretty impressive indeed. In the fifth inning he gave up a seeing eye ground ball single to Parmelee, but was otherwise perfect in his 3 1/3 innings pitched. He even struck out five batters, and after watching Tillman it was refreshing to see a guy pitching in the strike zone. It was easy to see why the Orioles want to keep him around.
The Orioles came back to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth. Nate McLouth, Machado, and Markakis singled to load the bases and Jones came through again. He also singled to center field and McLouth and Machado were able to score. Markakis went to second and it looked like they might have a big rally on their hands. Sadly they did not, as Davis, Wieters, and J.J. Hardy were retired.
The Orioles and Twins traded zeroes in the sixth through eighth innings as Josh Roenicke relieved Worley and pitched pretty well. After McFarland came out of the game, Darren O'Day pitched a scoreless eighth and with the game tied going into the ninth, the Orioles turned to Jim Johnson.
After getting Jamey Carroll to ground out, Johnson induced another ground ball from Hicks that went to Davis at first base. It looked like it would be a routine play, but the ball went right through Davis's legs and Hicks was safe. Argh, Chris Davis! First you don't hit a home run and then you make a crucial error? I don't know what I ever saw in you! (Just kidding, Chris Davis, I still love you.) Johnson struck out Mauer for the second out, but then completely lost the strike zone and walked Willingham on four pitches. He got another ground ball from Morneau but unfortunately it went back up the middle for a single, knocking in Hicks and costing the Orioles the lead.
With Glen Perkins in to get the save for the Twins, the Orioles were quiet. McLouth, Machado, and Markakis were retired in order and the game was over. They are now 0-2 in one-run games, for those keeping track.