BALTIMORE—Suddenly, it’s 2014 again.
The Orioles are getting quality start after quality start. Instead of Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris, it’s Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Tyler Wilson.
But, there’s one constant. And that’s Chris Tillman.
Tillman, who put together a string of 12 straight quality starts in the second half of 2014 when the Orioles pulled away from the AL East, has rediscovered that magic.
On Friday night, Tillman recorded his fifth straight fine start, allowing just five hits in seven innings as the Orioles won their sixth straight, beating the Detroit Tigers 1-0 before 30,488 at Oriole Park.
The Orioles (22-12) are playing very well, to be sure. But, the season isn’t a quarter over, and the team will face difficult challenges.
Tillman (5-1) has made facing those challenges easier.
“I feel good right now. I think mechanically I’m in a good place and I’m able to execute all my pitches when I need to, not necessarily throwing fastballs in a fastball count, but I’m able to throw some other things that I’m not used to doing. It’s fun right now, and I’ll try to keep it going,” Tillman said.
He allowed two hits in the first, and two more baserunners in the second before he settled down. After Ian Kinsler singled to start the third, he retired 10 straight before Miguel Cabrera walked with two outs in the sixth.
As Victor Martinez came up, the Orioles went into a severe shift, and the only infielder on the left side, Manny Machado fielded a hard ground ball well into the outfield and threw Cabrera out at second.
Justin Verlander (2-4) gave up a two-out single to Adam Jones and walked Chris Davis in the first, and he didn’t give up another hit until Davis singled in the fourth.
Jones hit a long home run to center with one out in the sixth. It was Jones’ fourth of the season, his third in four games, and the first one he’d hit at home. It was the 200th home run of Jones’ career.
“I've been playing for a while. I think it's pretty cool, glad we got the win. I think personal things are all cool and fine and dandy if you go out there and play and perform every day, things like this tend to happen,” Jones said.
He’s hit all but three of those homers with the Orioles, and when he hits three more, he’ll become the seventh player to hit 200 with the franchise.
The others are Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson.
“If you think about the other six or seven people you're talking about, one, you've got to be good and be wanted in a place for that long. A lot of people in today's game they move on. But he wanted to be here and we wanted him to be here. It's a product of him being a good player and being with one club for a long period of time,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Nick Castellanos doubled to lead off the seventh, and then struck out Justin Upton and Steven Moya before retiring James McCann on a long fly to right field as Tillman’s night ended.
“Chris has got a good feel right now. There’s a lot of pressure on catchers. He doesn’t shake Matt [Wieters] off and there’s a lot of pressure on catchers on both sides to put down good fingers.” Showalter said.
Tillman hasn’t allowed a home run in 42 2/3 innings.
“He’s got command of some pitches that he didn’t a lot of times last year and it’s created a different look. Our catcher’s really good about trying not to show the whole repertoire in the first two or three innings and you’ve got somewhere to go. You can’t just sit there and stay with one pattern,” Showalter said.
For the second straight night, Darren O’Day pitched a scoreless eighth, and Zach Britton worked a spotless ninth for his 10th save.
Verlander (2-4) threw an eight-inning complete game, allowing one run on four hits.
Detroit (15-20) was shut out for the fourth time.
“I know what this team’s capable of, and what we’re capable of doing, and I think as long as you long as you get the ball to the bullpen with the lead, I think we’re in pretty good shape and I think that’s the belief throughout the clubhouse. We’ve got a really solid bullpen especially in the back end. It’s fun to watch them do what they do,” Tillman said.
NOTES: Mark Trumbo’s streak of reaching base in 25 straight games ended. … Tillman is now 5-0 against Detroit, and Verlander 7-1 in Baltimore. … Anibal Sanchez (3-3, 5.89) faces Mike Wright (1-3, 5.83) on Saturday night.