BALTIMORE -- The first half of the season hasn't gone the way Orioles Opening Day starter Chris Tillman had hoped. But the righty, who pitched six solid innings in Friday's 3-2 walk-off win over the Nationals, is showing encouraging signs of putting things together.
"I feel like it's been getting better and better as it's gone on," said Tillman, after holding Washington to two runs on eight hits and a walk. "Fastball command is getting better and better every time. And I think, for the most part, it was pretty good tonight."
Tillman, who has quality starts in two of his final three first-half outings, hasn't lost a game since May 31, and the O's have won six of his last seven starts. He's posted a 4.62 ERA over that stretch, with four quality starts, and lowered his season ERA on Friday to 5.40.
"For me, most of the time it's execution. And I executed quite a few pitches tonight, behind, ahead," said Tillman, who credited his changeup with helping him navigate the Nationals' lineup. "Even when they did chip away, I felt like it was on the ground. And that's a pitcher's goal, to keep these guys on the ground and not let them drive the ball. It was good to see."
After Adam Jones' solo homer put Baltimore up in the fourth, Tillman allowed a pair of fifth-inning runs, including Tyler Moore's RBI double and Michael Taylor's go-ahead single. But that was all he allowed, as he stranded a pair of baserunners in the sixth to keep the O's within striking distance and again give credence to the theory that perhaps the righty is back to form.
"I don't know. Tonight he was," manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman returning to his old self, which saw him pitch to a 3.34 ERA in 2014. "Let's see what the next outing brings. He was working on an extra day. That doesn't always work well with him. I know where these guys are going to fit after the break. Every challenge, what happens good or bad, doesn't mean it's going to happen next time out.
"That's why we come to watch the games. Me, too. I wish it was played that simply. We'd just plug in the computer program and go with it. It would be awful boring, though, wouldn't it?"