The Baltimore Orioles completed the three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals tonight thanks to a gem from Chris Tillman and a clutch double from none other than Ryan Flaherty.
The Orioles are trying to make us forget their run of bad starting pitching over the last few games, and Tillman just added to that. He pitched into the eighth inning tonight without allowing the run and then the always reliable Brad Brach closed the door to get the win.
After the excitement and shenanigans in last night's games, both teams were on their best behavior throughout. Let's hope the door is closed on that ugliness.
After back-to-back stinkers that made us doubt that 2015 Tillman was really gone, Tilly pitched a gem tonight against the Royals. He matched his career high with nine strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. It was nice.
The Royals tried to threaten in the third inning, but it did not work out. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled with no outs, which brought Jarrod Dyson to the plate. Whether Dyson decided to bunt for a hit or as a sacrifice, it didn't matter. He popped it up. Ryan Flaherty raced in to catch it, then fired the ball to second base to double off Cuthbert.
Alcides Escobar followed that with a single to make the double play look even bigger, but Tillman got Whit Merrifield out to end the inning.
After that it was smooth sailing for Tillman for several innings. He allowed just one hit in innings four through six. In the fifth he struck out the side, all swinging.
Tillman finally started to struggle a bit in the seventh, giving up two hits and hitting triple digits in pitch count. But he got out of it and Buck Showalter sent him back to start the eighth inning with Brad Brach warm in the bullpen.
I thought it was a curious decision, but one that I didn't hate. Why not see if he could stretch a bit beyond his comfort zone? Tillman was able to get one out in the eighth while allowing two singles. Both balls were on the ground, so it's not like they started driving the ball against him. But with the tying run on deck, that was it for Tillman.
He was replaced by Brach, who made things a little dicey by walking Eric Hosmer with two outs. He got the third out on a fly ball by Salvador Perez, but it looked like Perez just missed his pitch. Doesn't matter in the end!
Tillman's final pitching like was 7.1 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K.
We call that "Pulling a Jimenez"
For four innings, Edinson Volquez was cruising. The Orioles couldn't touch him. He retired the first seven batters he faced before Nolan Reimold doubled in the third. After that he got the next five batters to complete four innings with just 50 pitches. The Orioles just didn't look good against him.
Volquez started the fifth inning by getting Matt Wieters to ground out on just one pitch, so it looked like more of the same. But if there is one thing we have learned about this O's offense, it's that you can never count them out.
Starting with a rare walk by Jonathan Schoop (just his eighth this season), it all fell apart for Volquez. After a single by Pedro Alvarez and a walk to Reimold, Ryan Flaherty stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. He drove the ball to right field. Orlando Paulo couldn't get back on it quickly enough and it sailed over his head.
Flaherty's double knocked in two runs and put runners on second and third for Adam Jones. Jonesy worked a seven-pitch at bat that ended with a fly ball to left field.
It wasn't very deep and with Reimold tagging at third I thought it was going to be a very close play. I didn't take into account Jarrod Dyson's throw home, which bounced around the shortstop position and dribbled towards home plate behind Reimold.
It was a fun inning, and it wasn't over yet. Volquez just needed to get Hyun Soo Kim out and he'd be out of the inning. But you've met Hyun Soo Kim. He doesn't like making outs. He slapped a single back up the middle which scored Flaherty from second
Four runs! With no dingers! The Orioles hardly ever do that, That was the end of the road for Volquez. Luke Hochaver replaced him and got the last out thanks to some help from Lorenzo Cain, who made a nice catch of a Manny Machado fly ball to end the inning.
So Much For Late Inning Runs
The Orioles spent the 10-game homestand scoring runs late in the game, but that didn't happen tonight. After their four-run outburst against Volquez in the fourth they didn't score another run.
In fact, they didn't have any more hits after that inning. They had two baserunners in innings five through eight, both on walks. When your pitching staff is throwing a shutout, it doesn't really matter.
Sweep! The Orioles went 7-3 on the homestand and maintain their hold on first place for another day. Starting tomorrow the O's will be on the road in Toronto, with Tyler Wilson pitching against Marcus Stroman for the Jays.