Chris Tillman is still finding his footing after missing the season’s first five weeks on the disabled list, and after taking little victories from each of his first two starts, the Orioles right-hander put together his first quality start of his delayed season.
Tillman is at his best when he’s mixing his pitches effectively. And in holding a Toronto Blue Jays batting order to three runs on five hits – all three runs coming in the fourth inning – in the Orioles’ 5-3 extra-inning win Friday night, Tillman has plenty to build off of moving forward after being sidelined with shoulder problems that forced him to open the season on the disabled list and dated back to last August.
“I think so, yeah,” Tillman said when asked if he believed Friday’s outing was a step forward. “I think we are taking steps every time. I think this one, by far, was the best one other than the one inning that kind of got away from me a little bit. Pitching-wise I feel like was much better. I wouldn’t say great, but we are able to compete and make pitches when we needed to and it’s going to be a fight for a little while.”
Tillman’s first two outings were shortened by high pitch counts, but on Friday, he avoided a 20-pitch frame.
He established his fastball early, and then used that to use his secondary pitches, throwing his changeup, slider and curveball for double-digit totals.
Though Tillman had four strikeouts, including three straight at the end of the second inning and beginning of the third, the key to his success was keeping the ball of the ground. He induced eight groundouts, compared to one flyout.
“That’s a guy — he’s a pitcher,” said Welington Castillo, who caught Tillman for the first time. “He’s going to use all of his pitches, both sides of the plate, any count. Always, I feel like it makes your job easier when you have a guy like him on the mound.”
Tillman retired nine of the first 10 hitters…