The Orioles shut out the Royals tonight in decisive fashion behind a complete game from Chris Tillman, the first complete game for the Orioles this year. The O's offense hustled its way into a few runs and even added one on an elusive Chris Davis homer that took the game out of save territory. All around this game was just what the doctor ordered after the series of nail biters over the last several weeks.
Let's start with Tillman, as he was easily the star of the show. The very first batter of the game for the Royals, Nori Aoki, slapped a ground ball to the third base side that was a tough luck double. But Tillman easily retired the next three batters to strand Aoki at second base. It ended up being a 12-pitch inning for Tillman, and six of them were to Aoki. After a one-out single to Johnny Giavotella in the second inning, Tillman retired the next nine batters he faced, and he made it look easy. The Royals looked a lot like we've seen the Orioles look at the plate this year, unable not only to get hits, but also to make at bats last for any decent number of pitches.
The Orioles got their first two runs in the fourth inning thanks to a little luck and a little hustle. Manny Machado led off and after starting the AB swinging away, he dropped a bunt down the third base line and hustled to first. Jeremy Guthrie hopped off the mound and was able to get to it, but made a poor throw that got past Eric Hosmer at first base. Manny took off for second base, and then not long later moved up to third thanks to a wild pitch from Guthrie.
After an Adam Jones ground out, Chris Davis worked the count full against Guthrie and took what looked to be strike three. But the umpire called it ball four as Guthrie let out some words of disgust on the mound. With runners at first and third with one out instead of a runner at third and two outs, the corner infielders played in to try and cut off a run if necessary. That gave Nelson Cruz a lucky break when he chopped a ball right over the head of Hosmer. Machado scored on the play and Davis got to third base.
With runners still on the corners with one out, Steve Clevenger hit a high chopper to second base. A double play would have end the inning, but the Pride of Pigtown busted it down the line to beat the throw to first base. Davis came in to score to make it a 2-0 game.
In the fifth inning, back-to-back singles by Jones and Davis set up a sacrifice fly from Nelson Cruz to make it 3-0, and their final run came in the 8th inning when Chris Davis finally hit his third home run of the season. Is this the start of something for Davis? Let's hope so.
As for Tillman, after allowing two base runners in the fifth inning, he dialed it up a notch and finished the rest of the game with barely a hitch. He faced just three batters each in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. And in the ninth inning, after a ground ball that was hit sharply to Ryan Flaherty for a single, Tillman got three easy outs on ground balls to end the game.
Like I said before, this kind of game was just what the Orioles (and their fans) needed. A great pitching performance, more than two runs scored, and very little stress. Baseball is fun! Let's do it again tomorrow.