The defeat ends a tough, three-city road trip at 5-5, as the Orioles (30-28), who will have a much favorable June schedule, have good reason to be encouraged by a lineup that scored 29 runs in the past four games.
They have equal reason to start seriously examining the curious case of Tillman.
For the second time in four starts, the right-hander failed to record an out in the second inning as Tillman's decline continues to flummox the Orioles, ballooning his ERA to 5.20. Taking away his last start -- a quality outing in Houston -- Tillman has allowed 19 earned runs over a 7 2/3-inning stretch as the Opening Day starter can't seem to recapture his early consistency.
"Chris doesn't like to put his teammates in that situation, and I think all guys understand that it affects a lot of people when we get those short starts," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who will again examine the team's options to add some relief help after his bullpen picked up seven innings.
"But we've got to figure it out because he's an integral part of what we need to do here."
Tillman surrendered five runs on six hits and three walks, including a two-run homer, and allowed the first four batters to reach base to prompt a mound visit. And while he retired the next two batters, including an inning-ending double play, Tillman wouldn't get another out.
"It's always frustrating anytime you leave the game early," said Tillman, who left with two men on base in the second inning. "Couple back-to-back bad ones doesn't make it any worse. It's always frustrating. It's our job to go deep into games and save the bullpen. Didn't happen."
Tillman, who repeated again on Thursday that he feels fine physically, said he won't take anything from his start and will just throw it away and look forward.
"It's just one of those ones you can't take anything from," said Tillman, who was consistently up in the zone. "You learn what you need to do better next time. But it's been a constant battle. It's evident. I know what needs to be done. Just got to do it."
Following Michael Choice's two-run homer, Tillman issued a pair of second-inning walks and exited after Elvis Andrus' single. Brad Brach kept the game from getting out of hand, holding the Rangers to just one hit over 3 1/3 innings to allow the offense to get to work.
And work it did, with a lineup that entered the day leading the American League in batting average, scoring five runs off Rangers starter Colby Lewis to compensate for Tillman's tough start. But it wasn't enough, as an uncharacteristic night from Hardy charged lefty Brian Matusz with a pair of unearned runs.
"I'm very surprised," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of watching Hardy's struggles from the home dugout. "He catches everything he can get to. I've never seen him make a bad throw. Matter of fact, I've really never seen him make an error."
The fateful seventh got started on Rougned Odor's single, which Hardy fielded and threw wide to allow Odor to reach second base. After Matusz retired Shin-Soo Choo, Hardy's fielding error allowed Andrus to reach base and Odor to score the go-ahead run.
"I definitely want to forget about it," said Hardy, who also had a miscue in the fourth to mark just his second career multi-error game and first since 2007. "A couple of throwing errors, a fielding error. If Caleb [Joseph] didn't made a nice pick on that last one, it would have been four errors. That's just a night for me I'd like to forget."
So would the Orioles, who head home on a late plane to Texas after a disappointing finish, with a homestand looming.
"We're going to get to bed at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning and cold jock the game," said Showalter, who has mandated his players report late on Friday. "And I think more than anything these are the times you really look forward to having some friendly faces and people pulling for you. We've been the victim of some road crowds like we all have and our guys have handled it real well, and we've played some good teams."
The Orioles have also found their offense. With another eight hits on Thursday, they have 58 over their last four games and have gotten contributions up and down the order.
Adam Jones, who drove in a pair of runs with a fifth-inning double, brought the O's within two runs with a leadoff homer in the eighth. Nick Markakis went deep off Lewis for a two-run shot to put the O's on the board in the third, while Chris Davis also drove in a run to account for Thursday's runs.
"I guess it definitely could have been worse," Hardy said of the team's outcome on the trip. "We ran into a couple of hot teams in Milwaukee and Houston. Tonight hurts, but 5-5 is not terrible."