Alternate title: Chris Tillman wins!!!!1!!1!
It happened, folks. For the first time in his last 23 starts, Chris Tillman notched a victory.
And he didn’t just eke out a cheap one, muddling through five mediocre innings while his team scored a bunch of runs for him. No, Tillman earned every part of this honor. He delivered his most masterful outing in years, thoroughly dominating the Tigers in a remarkable renaissance performance while leading a 6-0 Orioles win.
I’m gonna be honest. When I saw that Tillman was starting tonight — my third consecutive recap of a Tillman start — I started to wonder if someone was pranking me. Seriously, I get one recap a week and it’s Tillman every time? Did I do something wrong in a past life to deserve such ill fortune?
Well, Chris Tillman shut me up tonight. He shut me up good.
You’d have thought you traveled back in time to the 2012-2014 era with the way Tillman threw the ball in this game. He was hitting his spots, keeping hitters off balance, and racking up out after out. He bore no resemblance whatsoever to the Tillman who appeared irreparably broken throughout 2017 and the first four starts of this year.
Well, maybe he kind of resembled that guy in the first inning. (Of course, even back in the days when Tillman was consistently good, he always struggled in the first inning.) Tillman was fighting his control in the early goings of this game, plunking Jeimer Candelario and walking Miguel Cabrera with one out to set up an early Tigers rally. But he escaped by fanning Nicholas Castellanos and retiring Victor Martinez on a fly ball, and from that point forward, Tillman barely broke a sweat.
Starting with Castellanos, Tillman retired 10 consecutive hitters, mowing through a perfect second and third inning before issuing a two-out walk in the fourth to Martinez in the fourth, whom he left stranded by striking out JaCoby Jones.
Hey, remember that time the Braves announcers thought the Tigers’ JaCoby Jones was the same guy as former NFL player Jacoby Jones, despite the fact that they are eight years apart in age, look completely different, come from completely different parts of the country, and play different sports? Good times.
In any case, Tillman had already accomplished something he hadn’t done since last July 22: start the game with four scoreless innings. But he wasn’t finished. Not even close.
Tillman carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Jose Iglesias broke it up with a one-out double. Undeterred, Tillman notched a groundout and a strikeout, his fourth, to get out of the inning with the shutout intact.
Meanwhile, could the Orioles’ offense, coming off a season-high 16-hit performance on Thursday, provide Tillman some run support?
Yes. Yes, they could. Manny Machado took matters into his own hands early, bashing a first-inning solo homer, his team-leading ninth, off Tigers’ starter Mike Fiers.
You might remember Fiers, by the way, as the free agent who turned down a multi-year offer with the Orioles this past offseason to sign a one-year deal with the Tigers. We all scoffed at him at the time. “Why,” we asked, “would you want to play for a terrible team instead of the Orioles?” Yeah, uh, about that...
It took another four innings for the Orioles to get their next run on the board, courtesy of a Pedro Alvarez solo dong. The Baby Bull struck again in the seventh with a two-run blast off Johnny Barbato, as Alvarez doubled his season home run total on this night.
The Orioles even managed to score some runs that weren’t on dingers. In the sixth, new guy Jace Peterson roped an RBI double that deflected off second base, and in the eighth, Peterson singled, stole second, and scored on a Machado RBI single, extending the O’s lead to 6-0.
So the runs were taken care of. Tillman did the rest.
He seemed to get stronger as the game went on, racking up another strikeout in a 1-2-3 sixth, then inducing three grounders to cruise through the seventh.
With that, Tillman’s night was done. And what a night it was. He threw seven shutout, one-hit innings, walking two and striking out five. With this single outing, Tillman chopped nearly three runs off his season ERA, dropping it from 9.87 to 7.03.
It was Tillman’s first outing of seven or more innings since Aug. 11, 2016, and his first scoreless outing of seven or more innings since June 8, 2016. It was also his first quality start since last July 17, and his first scoreless outing since his five-inning 2017 season debut May 7 (which was also his last victory before tonight).
For the first time in ages, Tillman looked like the reliable, quality pitcher that fronted the Orioles’ rotation during the club’s postseason runs. It was outstanding to see.
Can he keep it up? Your guess is as good as mine. But for one night, at least, everything came up Tillman. And everything came up Orioles.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for 4/27?
This poll is closed
Pedro Alvarez (two home runs)
Chris Tillman (7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 5 Ks)