Orioles 3, Blue Jays 4: Chris Tillman's lone bad inning sends the O's farther from the playoffs

Tom Szczerbowski

Chris Tillman only fell apart for two batters as he pitched a complete game, but that was enough to send the Orioles to a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.

A strong outing by Chris Tillman became marred by the first two batters of the seventh inning. He walked a batter on four pitches and then gave up a first-pitch home run to Colby Rasmus, turning a one-run lead for the Orioles into a one-run deficit to the Blue Jays. He pitched a full eight innings for the complete game loss, with the O's falling, 4-3, in Saturday afternoon's contest in Toronto.

The loss means the Orioles could potentially end up 3.5 games back of the wild card with only 14 games to play, depending on the Rays result in Minnesota. Their latest one-run loss means they are now 16-28 in one-run games this season, which gives you a greater appreciation of how amazing last season's 29-9 mark really was.

There was little clutch hitting to be found today, with the O's going 2-11 with runners in scoring position, leaving eight men stranded in the game. The eight men left on base includes two times where a runner reached third with less than two outs and could not be driven in.

Tillman's outing is one that looks worse in the box score than it actually was. The four runs hurt, but he only allowed eight baserunners in as many innings, and two of those were not his fault. A Jose Reyes double in the first inning and an Anthony Gose triple in the second inning were both balls that should have been corralled by Chris Davis. The double by Reyes turning into an out should have meant that the first inning ended before Moises Sierra (I don't know either) could drive in two runs.

The Orioles actually struck first in the game, with back-to-back doubles in the top of the first by Manny Machado, his 50th of the year, and Davis. The Orioles home run leader sliced a ball to the opposite field that Gose dove for but could not come up with, driving in Machado and giving the Orioles a short-lived 1-0 lead. That was Davis' 130th RBI of the season, putting him three behind Miguel Cabrera for the American League lead.

Machado continued being awesome in the third inning, tying the game with a solo home run. That was his 14th home run of the season and his 1,337th (approximate) multi-hit game of the season. As good as we all thought Matt Wieters was going to be, Machado is actually that.

Speaking of Wieters, he had one of those two hits that drove in a run, singling in Nick Markakis (two walks on the day) in the fourth inning. This gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead that for a while looked like it might hold, until Tillman's abrupt transformation for two batters in the seventh. Wieters looked terrible other than that, striking out three times, including two of the times the O's had a man reach third. On the season, he is batting .230/.285/.411, a .696 OPS that punches us all in some delicate places.

With that theme of terrible slash lines in mind, another culprit for failing with runners in scoring position today was Markakis, who went 0-2 to go along with his two walks. Both of his at-bats came with a man in scoring position. He lined out to second base in the first inning and grounded out to shortstop in the sixth. His season slash line is .271/.326/.361 and I am tired of pointing out how much it sucks.

The O's struck Esmil Rogers for three runs in six innings, with five hits and two walks to go against seven strikeouts. They were held scoreless in the last three innings by a parade of Toronto relievers that included Jeremy Jeffress (1 IP), Aaron Loup (0.2 IP), Neil Wagner (0.1 IP), Casey Janssen (1 IP).

Because the Jays went ahead in the seventh inning, after Jeffress had pitched, he was given the win, his first of the season. Janssen was credited with his 30th save. Tillman took the loss for the O's, dropping to 16-6. He only lost it for two batters, but with the way the O's have been performing with men in scoring position lately, losing it for two batters is too much.

The Rays play the Twins. The Indians play the White Sox. The Rangers are imploding, possibly opening up another spot, but the O's aren't winning enough games for that to matter. They are not mathematically eliminated yet, but it will only take a combination of 13 Rays wins or Orioles losses to eliminate them, and they still have to pass the Yankees and Indians. For a team that has never gotten hot and looks like it never will get hot, that is a tall order.

The finale of the series comes on Sunday afternoon with a 1:07 start time, with Miguel Gonzalez starting for the Orioles against Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays.

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