ST. PETERSBURG -- Left out of the All-Star Game, Orioles starter Chris Tillman showed again on Saturday just how important he is to first-place Baltimore.Tillman fired seven innings of one-run baseball at Tropicana Field, leading the Orioles to a 2-1 series-clinching win over the Rays that keeps them atop the
ST. PETERSBURG -- Left out of the All-Star Game, Orioles starter Chris Tillman showed again on Saturday just how important he is to first-place Baltimore.
Tillman fired seven innings of one-run baseball at Tropicana Field, leading the Orioles to a 2-1 series-clinching win over the Rays that keeps them atop the American League East by at least two games.
"What year was it, two years ago? It's the Tillman of a couple years ago," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "His stuff is really crisp. He's hitting his spots, and he's throwing four pitches for strikes. He's keeping hitters off balance. He's looking really good."
Tillman, who entered the day tied for second in the American League with 12 wins, picked up lucky 13 with his 12th quality start of the season. The run off him came after Logan Morrison tripled and scored in the fourth, as he lowered his ERA to 3.29 over 20 games.
"It ended up good," Tillman said of the 92-pitch outing. "I think early on ... I was fighting to get in rhythm. I felt like I had been the last couple of starts. You've got to fight to get into rhythm, and once you hit on a couple pitches, you get in stride a little bit and you go from there. It got better as the game went on."
With an Orioles rotation that has struggled all year, Tillman has been a welcome source of relief. He is 6-0 in nine starts against the AL East, allowing 21 earned runs over 54 1/3 innings for a 3.48 ERA. The Orioles have gone undefeated (9-0) in those games.
"It magnifies it when you know everybody knows him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman's divisional success. "That's a real tribute to his repertoire. Chris has got a lot of ways, the changeup, the slider. I think the slider has been as good of a pitch, it's really improved a lot since last year. And the curveball and the changeup. It's one thing, it gets magnified by how well everyone knows him and he continues to have success with it."
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.