Chris Tillman started the first game of the season for the Orioles, the first of their 93 wins and counting. He's started more games than any other Orioles pitcher this year, thrown more innings, and leads the starting pitchers in strikeouts and ERA. It's little surprise that manager Buck Showalter announced before Tuesday's game that Tillman will be the Game 1 starter in the ALDS, whichever team the Orioles might end up facing.
The next two starting pitchers in line after Tillman currently look to be Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez. However, the O's haven't made any official announcement about the rest of the ALDS rotation because they still want to wait and see who they will end up playing. It's possible for the Royals to overtake the Tigers, which might change the calculations.
Chen might even be the odd man out in a rotation for a Detroit series, as the Tigers have the best OPS in the AL against left-handed pitchers (.794). That's nearly 50 points higher than their OPS against right-handed pitchers.
Tillman solidifying his place as what passes for an ace among the Orioles staff has been a gradual thing all season. Despite what's been said by his doubters - which has often included me - Tillman fired of a second straight 200+ inning season. He's cut his home run allowed rate by almost 50%. He continues to thumb his nose at Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).
He still makes you nervous, especially early in games, when he has a 5.73 ERA in the first inning and a 4.60 ERA in the second. But his pattern is to settle down after that. The Orioles offense is good enough most nights - although it hasn't felt like it lately - to overcome even an early couple of runs.
Tillman is scheduled to make his final regular season start on Friday. He'll have nearly a week to get ready before the first ALDS game on October 2.
The O's have the luxury of lining things up exactly the way they want to. They can wait and see who's going to play them and decide what they want to do accordingly. These are the advantages you get with a 12 game division lead. Here's hoping they make the most of it.