Just as everyone predicted, the Baltimore Orioles are now 4-0 after beating the Rays on Friday night, 6-1. Chris Tillman mowed down the Tampa Bay lineup for five innings and just as everyone predicted, the O's pitching continues to be the backbone of the club.
Chris Archer and the Rays hung tight for the first few innings, but the massive amount of Orioles magic on hand during this opening week had something to say about Tampa Bay's early chances. The pitching performances on the home side were simply too good to be defeated.
It's strangely against all of the numbers and certainly a surprise to all watching, but the Orioles remain undefeated with incredible performances from their guys on the mound. There's a zero in the loss column - chances are, that's all Buck Showalter really cares about.
The Winning Details
Tillman took the mound donning the Friday night black alternate jerseys and did an admirable job matched up against Archer on the other side.
It might not have been as pleasing as his two-inning mini-start on Opening Day, but Tillman's Friday night outing was rather impressive. He surrendered a first-inning bomb to Evan Longoria in the first inning - bringing back ugly flashes of 2015 - but rebounded quite nicely.
He settled down after walking Logan Forsythe to begin the third inning, using an effective fastball/changeup mix to retire his last nine hitters through the fifth inning.
The veteran right-hander continued to show off plus stuff, this time highlighted by the mixing of speeds. The heater sat primarily between 91-93, countering beautifully with his changeup in the low 80s. He struck out five hitters on the night, upping his season total to 10 after fanning five of six on Monday.
The offense ... well, the offense did what we all expected them to do heading into the season: mash a whole lot of taters.
And oh, oh were there taters to be mashed.
After Chris Davis crushed a mammoth shot to centerfield in the second inning and Matt Wieters contributed an RBI single in the fourth, the Birds knocked in four giant runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Jonathan Schoop, Nolan Reimold and Manny Machado crushed solo shots to put the Birds up 5-1 in the bottom of the inning, and Wieters hit Chris Archer in the midsection to knock in another. With a five-run lead, the rest was history.
Buck Showalter sat Tillman down after five innings, allowing him to snatch the win while not taking on too much of a load on shorter rest. Even with limited action on Monday, it was pretty clear the skipper wanted to keep his ace on the fresh end. His final line for the night:
T.J. McFarland came in after Tillman and worked an impressive season opening outing, cleanly rolling through the sixth, seventh and eighth, allowing just one hit with no free passes.
In the ninth, Brad Brach entered to capture the final three outs.
The most unexpected first-week result: The Orioles' starting pitchers lead the majors in ERA, with three earned runs in 19 innings.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 9, 2016
As for the offense, the Orioles continue to impress in the well-rounded department. They surely showed off their muscle on Friday night, but also continued to creatively work their way on board with all kinds of offense.
Leading the way? You already know - Joey Rickard.
The future member of the Orioles Hall of Fame again added to his legacy at Camden Yards. After leading off the game with an infield hit, he tacked on another single up the middle in the third inning to up his season average to .467. Unfortunately for Hyun-Soo Kim, it doesn't appear Buck Showalter is going to be booting out his newly-found superstar any time soon.
As for the pitching ... how 'bout them O's? The arms continue to show off and be the backbone of the victories thus far. It's early, the sample size is small and the opposing lineups have been on the weaker end. But, for now, let's keep Chris Tillman's Cy Young hopes alive, shall we?
On defense, it's pretty notable that Showalter felt comfortable enough in Manny Machado to move him over to shortstop in game number four. There's no reason to believe he'll be there on a regular basis, but versatility is the name of the game.
As long as Manny's routine at the hot corner doesn't become shaky, there's probably no harm in this move happening again.
Out of the 'pen, it was encouraging to see T.J. McFarland go three scoreless. He showed signs of being a reliable long man capable of again displaying a full arsenal of above-average stuff.
Oh, did I mention that Joey Rickard had another multi-hit game?