ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Tillman said before the first half of the season ended that he felt he was close to regaining form. He's left little doubt in the first two starts of the second half as the right-hander has turned in back-to-back dominant outings.
Tillman, coming off a season-high eight strikeouts over eight innings in Saturday's win over the Tigers, has been a silver lining for the Orioles, who dropped their fourth consecutive game, 3-1 on Friday night vs. the Rays. The righty held Tampa Bay to one run -- scored after he left the game -- over seven-plus stellar frames and deserved a far better fate.
"Tilly was the reason we stayed in the ballgame," manager Buck Showalter said after his club's 15th loss in its last 20 games. "One run doesn't usually do it. Chris matched a very good pitcher [in Rays righty Chris Archer] by going deeper in the game than he did."
Tillman allowed just two hits, walked three and struck out four in the process. He needed just 80 pitches through six innings and, after hitting Tim Beckham with his first pitch, got a pop up and double play to breeze through the seventh.
"I'm just executing better and when I do get in trouble I'm able to make a pitch to get out of it," said Tillman, who pitched to a 6-7 record with a 5.40 ERA in 17 first-half games. "It's been there for a while now, just kind of carried over from the last couple starts from the first half and we are taking advantage of it."
Tillman exited in the eighth after a leadoff walk to Kevin Kiermaier, who came around to score on John Jaso's two-out single. It snapped a career-high 16-inning scoreless stretch for Tillman and was part of a three-run frame, two of which were charged to reliever Darren O'Day.
"He pitched great. His past two starts have been awesome and that's what we need out of him. We know he's capable of it. He put us in a good spot to win," O'Day said of Tillman. "I didn't get my job done and get it to Zach [Britton]. We needed a win, so that's a tough one."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.