Tillman baffling batters with entire arsenal

Tillman baffling batters with entire arsenal

BALTIMORE -- Despite being in first place the entire first month of the season, the Orioles knew continued success would hinge on their largely-underperforming rotation turning the corner.

Opening Day starter Chris Tillman has done exactly that. The righty, coming off a dominant nine-strikeout performance against the Rays, did the same thing Tuesday night, holding the last-place Yankees to one run on five hits and again punching out nine in the Orioles' 4-1 win.

"Since the first day of Spring Training, it's been -- I don't know if 'encouraging' is the word -- just kind of a reminder of how good he's capable of being and how good he's been for us," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman, who improved to 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA following his third consecutive quality start.

"I think he's carrying a little more stuff -- curveball, slider, changeup, all three were there for him and [catcher] Matt [Wieters] was aware of it. Sometimes he'll go an inning or two without certain things, like command of the fastball, and then all of sudden it will lock back in."

Since picking up his first quality start of the season on April 21 in his fourth outing, Tillman has really ramped things up. He's allowed just three earned runs over his past 19 2/3 innings, striking out 22.

"I think it's being able to throw my offspeed for strikes," said Tillman. "It's been something that I worked on a lot last year and it never really came along for me in Spring Training. I kind of had a good feel for it [tonight] and was able to carry it over. In bullpen [sessions], I worked hard on that. It's something that Wiety has to consistently remind me of throughout the game. In certain counts, he's calling a breaking ball where I normally wouldn't do it. He's keeping me on my toes, that's for sure."

Tillman is doing the same to opposing hitters, registering back-to-back nine-strikeout starts for the first time in his career. His lone run allowed Tuesday came in the second inning, improving him to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts at home this season.

"He's been dominant," said Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo, who went deep twice. "It seems like he's getting all his pitches over. It seems like if you put yourself in the hitter's shoes on the other side, it's very tough to sit on any one pitch. He's getting everything over for strikes. His fastball's up there in the mid-90's, and he's got that good changeup, curve, slider. It seems like it's just a really tough task to go up there and hit against him right now. The results are obviously showing that."

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.