Tillman's rough line belies improvement

Tillman's rough line belies improvement

CHICAGO -- All things considered, the Orioles are pleased with Chris Tillman's outing Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

After allowing nine runs in 1 1/3 innings in his previous start, last week against the Yankees, Tillman went 5 1/3 innings in the Orioles' 5-2 loss to the White Sox. He was charged with five runs and couldn't help Baltimore earn a split in the four-game series, but Tillman kept the Orioles in a tight 1-1 game before Chicago broke it open with four runs off him in the sixth.

"I think it was much better, tell you the truth," Tillman said. "A pitch here and there could have been better, but for the most part it was a step in the right direction."

Tillman struck out six, walked one and worked his way out of jams in the second, third and fourth with just one run allowed on a solo home run by Matt Davidson to start the fourth.

He struck out Willy Garcia with the bases loaded to end the second, struck out Todd Frazier with two runners aboard to end the third and got Tim Anderson to strand two runners with a groundout to end the fourth.

Tillman's inning-ending K

"I never really felt like I was in a huge jam," Tillman said. "I feel like from the get-go, I was able to make pitches. Guys got on base early, but most of those situations you are one pitch away. You have to focus on making that pitch."

Chicago's four runs in the sixth were charged to Tillman, who gave up a two-run single to Melky Cabrera and made a mental mistake not covering a Kevan Smith bunt that loaded the bases, but the final two runs were assessed after three walks and a sacrifice fly against reliever Jimmy Yacabonis.

"I thought he did a tremendous job," catcher Caleb Joseph said. "He had seven ground-ball hits within two or three inches of defenders' gloves. Unfortunately, they just weren't at guys. I think it's a totally different story if some of those ground balls are caught."

Overall, it wasn't reminiscent of Tillman's best starts last season, when he went 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA, but this was still a step in the right direction. After making an adjustment in his bullpen session between starts, Tillman regained some confidence despite a bloated ERA (8.07) and WHIP (2.10).

"Chris has a good track record, and he's going to pitch better," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Hopefully today is the start of that. I think he only walked one guy, and that tells you how many foul balls [he induced]. They made him earn everything, and he did. He gave us a chance. We're just not scoring any runs."

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.