When the Baltimore Orioles (57-40) began the second half of Major League Baseball’s regular season losing six of its first eight games, its lead in the American League East evaporated and panic ran rampant throughout the fan base.
Baltimore’s offense was stagnant, and the pitching couldn’t hold the opposition to few enough runs to give the offense a chance to make a late-inning push.
Since then, however, the Orioles offense has returned, and pitching has been better.
Thank Chris Tillman for the turn around.
In fact, the club’s 18 wins is the most in baseball this season by a team in games started by a single pitcher.
Buck Showalter’s club, however, is 39-37 in games started by all other pitchers.
Although that isn’t great, it might just be enough to get the Orioles in the playoffs.
Baltimore has yet to lose more than one game started by Tillman in a calendar month this season, and with one start remaining in July, neither Tillman or the club has dropped a contest with the team’s ace on the hill this month.
In between his 21 starts, the Orioles have had a winning record nine times, and six other times have split their games.
His last start in New York resulted in a 4-1 win for the Birds, as Tillman pitched seven innings of four-hit ball while striking out seven. It put an end to the four-game losing streak that was beginning to scare the fan base, and subsequently started a four-game winning streak.
It’s also not the first time Tillman’s start has turned the club around.
Baltimore is 6-0 in games started by Tillman following a streak of a games in which the team had played to a losing record. He himself has a 5-0 record in such contests.
The only negative consequence to Tillman’s success this season has been that his losses have spelled more losses to come for the ball club.
The Orioles are a combined 3-9 in games following a game lost with Tillman being the starting pitcher.
Even though Baltimore has played just over .500 ball in games not started by Tillman, that could be enough the rest of the way.
If healthy, the former second round pick has around 12 starts left following his next scheduled start at home against Colorado on Tuesday.
Following Tuesday’s game, Baltimore will have 64 games left in the regular season.
If the Orioles can win half of their games without Tillman on the hill, and manage to win at least eight of the games started by Tillman, they are nearly guaranteed to win at least 90 games by season’s end.
Ninety wins was the fewest by any division winner last year, but the O’s can improve their winning chances simply by getting consistently better pitching in between Tillman’s starts.
They have gotten that the past three games, first out of young arms of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, and then Sunday out of the veteran Vance Worley.
In Gausman’s case, it’s been all about run support for him this year.
Certainly Baltimore’s chances could improve by beefing up the rotation before the trade deadline, but maybe Showalter was right when he said before the All-Star break that all the answers are in house.
A turnaround to Yovani Gallardo‘s season, run support for Gausman, and decent starts out of the fourth and fifth starters could do the trick until the postseason starts.
After that, the O’s bullpen will take center stage.
Until then, the burden continues to lie on the shoulders of Tillman. Thus far this season, though, the burden hasn’t been too much to bear for him.