"Today is a lesson he will learn from," manager Dave Trembley said. "You could tell from the beginning that he was struggling with control. He just didn't have a whole lot of life or finish to his pitches."
Tillman had been the best of the trio of rookies currently in the rotation so far this season. But the Orioles needed him to be even better for Sunday's finale.
The O's were looking to avoid a sweep at the hands of an Indians team that came into the series with just three wins in the month of September and having lost 11 in a row.
Their bullpen was also in dire straights after fellow first-year starter Jason Berken lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Saturday's 9-8 loss. The 'pen, which had already proved to be one of the team's weak links, had been even worse on the current road trip. So the last thing Trembley wanted to do was go to his relievers early for the second consecutive game.
But that's exactly what he had to do.
Tillman gave up six runs on six hits over two frames for his worst start of the season.
"He didn't miss too many bats," Trembley said. "It just wasn't a good outing for Chris."
Tillman was victimized by one bad inning for the second consecutive start. That inning came in the first.
Jamey Carroll led off the game with a single and then moved to third on Luis Valbuena's double. They would both score when Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to put the Indians up, 2-0.
Tillman appeared to settle down when he got the next two batters to strike out and ground out, respectively. But then he walked Matt LaPorta, allowed a single to Andy Marte and gave up a three-run homer to Kelly Shoppach.
All of a sudden, the Orioles were staring up at 6-0 deficit after one inning.
"I couldn't put guys away," Tillman said. "[Shoppach] just got to the pitch and I tip my hat to him."
The right-hander came back out for the second inning and ran into trouble once again. After getting the first two batters out, Tillman gave up a single and hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch. After an error by Ty Wigginton, the bases were loaded. LaPorta hit a sharp line drive to center, but Jeff Fiorentino made a great play to end the inning.
And that was enough to end his day after 53 pitches.
"I took him out because he just didn't have it," Trembley said. "It's just using common sense."
The bad outing couldn't have come at a worse time for Tillman. He has already pitched a lot more innings than he did last season. He is right around the mark where the Orioles said they wanted to shut him down.
If this is his last start, he will go into the offseason with the memory of the worst start of his young career.
"I'll just take the positives out of the season," Tillman said. "Obviously this was a bad start and it was unacceptable. Hopefully I can get one more start."
For the Orioles, the blowout loss to complete the sweep certainly wasn't ideal. They will now have to go to St. Petersburg trying to avoid their longest losing skid since 2004. Baltimore is 35 games under .500 for the first time since 2001.
"It's been a rough 10 games for us," Trembley said. "When the game turns hard in one direction on you, it has a way of snowballing and getting out of hand."