Tillman baffles Royals in first career shutout
Right-hander allows just five hits while Cruz provides pair of RBIs
KANSAS CITY -- Chris Tillman completed his first career shutout, a 117-pitch gem that lifted the Orioles to a 4-0 victory over the Royals on Friday night. It was something of a going-away present for manager Buck Showalter, who will briefly leave the club and miss Saturday's game so he can attend his daughter's graduation from law school.
"I left [acting manager] John Russell a full bullpen," Showalter said with a smile. "Well, I didn't. Tillman did."
Indeed, the Orioles' usually active bullpen could have ordered hot dogs and popcorn with the way Tillman waded through Kansas City's hitters. Tillman scattered five hits and was in complete control after working around Nori Aoki's leadoff double in the first. Baltimore pecked away for runs with some opportunistic offense and a late homer by Chris Davis.
With Tillman staying strong through the eighth, Showalter sent him back out for the complete game.
"I've been struggling a little bit recently," said Tillman, who had gone just five innings and allowed five walks in his previous start against Houston. We've been putting in a lot of hard work, not just me but everybody. It's good to see [the results]."
Even after a leadoff double from Aoki, Tillman was able to get out of the first unscathed on just 12 pitches.
"That was huge," Tillman said. "There were a lot of early swings and early outs. Any time you get that, it really helps. I hate walking guys. It's one of my pet peeves because that cuts down your chances of getting deep in the ballgame. Tonight, I was able to attack the zone and stay ahead."
Showalter could tell early that Tillman was in for a special performance.
"Three or four times a year, Chris is going to have one of those type games where he has command of the curve, the changeup and the fastball," Showalter said. "He broke out a little cut slider to give them a different wrinkle toward the end.
"Chris holds himself to a high standard. He never says, 'It wasn't that bad.' He expects perfection and has graduated mentally as well as physically."
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie matched Tillman for three innings, but then Manny Machado ignited the Orioles with a bunt single to open the fourth. Guthrie went sprawling in an attempt to make the play, but threw from his knees from the third-base side of the mound and the ball sailed past first baseman Eric Hosmer for an error, allowing Machado to take second.
Guthrie then delivered a wild pitch and, after Adam Jones tapped out, Davis drew a walk. Nelson Cruz then came through with what could truly be called a "Baltimore" chop, as his grounder took a kangaroo hop over the head of Hosmer for an RBI single.
"We were fortunate," Showalter said. "I think Cruz has centered up enough balls this season that he had one of those coming."
The Orioles had other nice moments offensively. Steve Clevenger hustled down the line to prevent a double play and turned it into an RBI fielder's choice. Cruz got a second RBI with a sacrifice fly on good situational hitting. Davis hit his first homer since April 23 by yanking a Guthrie delivery into the right-field stands.
But the night belonged to Tillman. He became the 78th pitcher in Orioles history to throw at least one shutout. Jim Palmer heads the list with 53.
"I don't think we centered anything up against Tillman," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He did a great job of keeping the ball down and staying ahead in the count. He had enough movement on his fastball and slider that we couldn't center anything."
Tillman's gem marked the first shutout by an Orioles pitcher since Scott Feldman accomplished the feat last Sept. 6 against the White Sox.
"It's becoming more rare," Showalter said. "The hitters grind so much now to build up pitch counts. [The Royals] tried to make him work, but every time they did, Chris got right back into the count."