BALTIMORE – Chris Tillman says he’s fine. Buck Showalter says Tillman is fine, so he must be fine.
Everything was fine with Tillman—except for the way he pitched.
After his start on Wednesday was delayed three days because of shoulder discomfort, Tillman had an awful outing, not recording an out in the third inning and allowing six runs, walking five and hitting a batter.
Except of Opening Day when a long rain delay curtailed his start to two innings, Tillman had pitched into the fifth inning in each of his next 24 starts and completed five in 23 of them.
Tillman’s frightful start put the Orioles on their way to a 12-2 loss to the Houston Astros before 39,373 at Oriole Park, many of whom arrived early to receive their “Crush Davis” bobbleheads.
“Physically, I felt fine. That’s the big positive coming out of this—probably the only positive you can find. I felt good. Just couldn’t command the baseball,” Tillman said.
Manager Buck Showalter suggested that Tillman was rusty because of extra rest.
“That’s an excuse, but you know what? I couldn’t command the baseball. It was definitely rusty, definitely not where I wanted to be with any of my pitches. That’s a pretty good lineup to try and go out there and wing it on. You’ve got to be better than that with them,” Tillman said.
Showalter says he believes Tillman when he says that he was fin.
“Chris has come a long way in his baseball maturity. He's not going to do anything to hurt the club. I trust his honesty with us. I'd like to think I know him well enough with the look in his eye. He doesn't BS us anymore. He knows how important these game are. I expect him to have a good outing next time out and feel good tomorrow. A lot of people would jump on that excuse. Chris is not one of these guys,” Showalter said.
Odrisamer Despaigne, who was recalled from Norfolk because the team needed another long man after Friday night’s 15-8 loss, allowed four runs in three innings, and was returned to the Tides after the game.
The Orioles will promote a pitcher on Sunday.
By the time Despaigne left the Orioles were down 10-1, and after Donnie Hart, Mychal Givens and Brad Brach each pitched an inning, Showalter used Ryan Flaherty to pitch the ninth.
It was the first time a position player pitched for the Orioles since Chris Davis did on May 6, 2012 in Boston, and the first time Showalter used a position player merely to save the bullpen in his six years as Orioles manager.
“One of those things you want to do until you get out there. But I don’t like it period, but what are you going to do? I started looking at options about four innings earlier because I knew we had a chance to get there,” Showalter said.
Flaherty, who homered off Jeff Francoeur, an outfielder pitching in June 2015, found out that turnabout was fair play.
He allowed a home run to Jason Castro, his first batter in the ninth.
“I think I had it coming for me after last year,” Flaherty said.
The early arrivers got to see a two-run home run by Alex Bregman with none out in the first, his second in three games.
Castro’s RBI double and Jose Altuve’s run-scoring single gave Houston (63-30) a 4-0 lead in the second.
Tillman (15-5) came apart in the third when he hit leadoff batter Evan Gattis and walked three straight. He left for Despaigne, called up with five runs in. After Tony Kemp hit into a double play, the Orioles (67-55) were down 6-0.
Despaigne gave up a two-run homer to George Springer, his 25th of the season in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Davis homered against Mike Fiers (9-6) with two outs in the fourth.
It was Davis’ 29th home run, and the fifth he’s hit in four games. It’s the second time this season Davis has homered in four straight games. From June 7-12, he hit home runs in five consecutive games.
Fiers limited the Orioles to a run on five hits in seven innings.
Steve Pearce hit his first home run since rejoining the Orioles earlier this month in the eighth.
Flaherty, who recently celebrated his 30th birthday, remembered the last time he pitched.
“High school. Wasn’t very good then and still not,” Flaherty said.
NOTES: Orioles pitchers walked a season-high 10 batters. … This was the second time this season the Orioles have allowed 10 or more runs in consecutive games. They also did it on June 11-12. … Dallas Keuchel (7-12, 4.76) faces Yovani Gallardo (4-4, 5.18) on Sunday afternoon.