video thumbnail

BAL@TEX: Tillman dominates over eight for 12th win

ARLINGTON -- Prior to the start of the second half, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a meeting with his club behind second base that wasn't exactly the stuff of motivational movies. In fact, Thursday's brief chat, as Showalter tells it, was more of a quick rundown than a scene out of "Braveheart," which the O's skipper famously referenced in his introductory news conference in 2010.

"I don't state the obvious to these guys," Showalter said. "That shows a sign of mistrust."

His club didn't take long to reward that faith.

The Orioles have come storming out of the gates following the All-Star break, dominating the Texas Rangers in every facet of the game, culminating with Sunday's 4-2 win to finish off a series sweep. The O's, who never trailed and took the lead in each game by the second inning, put on a defensive clinic every night and used a well-balanced offensive attack to handily outplay Texas on their home turf, securing their first road series sweep of the year.

"Real fundamentally sound three days for us," Showalter said of his club's seventh win in eight games. "And we've talked about if we continue to put emphasis on continuing to do those little things, it's going to be a small margin of error between here and the end, because there are a lot of good teams. We want to do the things that make us one of them."

Fresh off clinching their first series win in Arlington since 2010, the Orioles watched as starter Chris Tillman fired eight-plus innings to pick up his staff-leading 12th win. It put the O's a season-high 13 games over .500. Tillman said this spring his primary goal was to become a pitcher the team could count on, not one whose rotation turn is met with a collective eye roll. And the 24-year-old, who matched a season high in innings Sunday, has done just that.

"The only people who were rolling their eyes might be the hitters who have to face him," Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth said of Tillman, who has won 10 of his last 11 decisions and improved to 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA in three starts in Arlington. "He was pretty impressive. He threw more sliders tonight. He was throwing them for strikes, too. He's really become a pretty good pitcher."

The O's struck early again on Sunday night, plating a pair of runs off Rangers lefty Martin Perez with a four-hit second inning. Chris Davis opened with a double and Matt Wieters drove him in, in the first of two hits for the red-hot O's catcher. After shortstop J.J. Hardy singled and Danny Valencia reached on an error, Brian Roberts singled in another run. Hardy doubled in Wieters in the next inning to extend the Orioles' lead and Manny Machado drove in Roberts to put the O's up, 4-0, in the fourth.

Tillman, a late addition to last week's All-Star Game, took care of the rest. The righty continued what has been a breakout season, holding the Rangers' Nos. 2-5 batters to 2-for-13 with four strikeouts.

"He expects to give us a chance to win and he expects to go deep in the game," Wieters said of Tillman. "He's a guy who's always had good stuff, but the confidence has improved every year, and he's a guy whose mentality on the mound is perfect. He's not going to assume anything's going to happen, but he's going to pitch his butt off."

Tillman -- who struck out seven -- pitched around a two-out walk to Craig Gentry and allowed two hits after the fifth inning, taking the mound to start the ninth at 113 pitches. He exited after allowing Adrian Beltre's leadoff homer, giving the Orioles just their sixth start of eight or more innings this year and lowering the starters ERA to 1.71 over the series.

So has Tillman changed his fortunes?

"I hope so," he said. "That's the starting pitcher's goal: go out there and give your team a chance to win every time. And hopefully the starters can pick it up in the second half -- we started a little slow in the first half."

"Guys that consistently do things the right way, good fortune kind of follows them around," Showalter said. "It's a good calm around [Tillman] when he pitches, because he's able to understand he can be a real contributor as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues and doing it in a tough division."

Lefty Brian Matusz recorded an out after Tillman exited and Darren O'Day finished the frame to put the finishing touches on the victory. Tillman's twelve wins already tie the mark set by Wei-Yin Chen for most on the staff last year, with Chen needing 32 starts to get there.

"I felt good," Tillman said. "There have been multiple starts this year where I felt just like that. I think it comes down to execution, being able to execute a pitch in a situation. Wiety did a fantastic job of mixing it up right when we needed it and only when necessary."

Tillman, like his two predecessors this series, was helped by an outstanding Orioles defense. The O's had an outfield assist every game of the series, bringing their total to six in July after compiling 10 in the first three months of the season. Machado and Hardy continued to put on a clinic in the field and Tillman got out of trouble in the fifth, when -- after one run already scored -- David Murphy got caught between third base and home for an inning-ending putout that started with Nick Markakis' relay.

"It's big," Wieters said of starting the second half with a sweep. "It's a good team over there, and we know they're going to be battling for the playoffs just like we are. So it's big to get three games, especially on the road, and now we've got to get ready for Kansas City." Comments