The Orioles' Robert Andino is congratulated by teammate… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
It was fitting that the Orioles' starting pitching was the story on a day when Buck Showalter became the first manager since 1900 to take over a team in August or later and win more games the rest of the way than it had before he arrived.
In a doubleheader sweep Friday of the Detroit Tigers, Chris Tillman and Jeremy Guthrie combined to give up one earned run and five hits in 15 innings, continuing the run of strong starts since Showalter's arrival.
Tillman allowed just one run over seven innings in the Orioles' 10-6 victory in Game 1, and Guthrie turned in eight shutout innings in the nightcap to help the Orioles claim a 2-1 victory in front of an announced 20,870 at Camden Yards.
"That's what's going to have to happen for us to get where we want to go," Showalter said. "It evolves around, obviously, pitching, but [also] giving your team a chance to win and making leads matter late in games. It's been impressive, and we hope it carries over because that's what we're going to have to get to go where we want to go."
The two wins improved the Orioles to 65-95 on the season, surpassing their win total from last season. That's significant because through 105 games last season, the Orioles were 44-61. Through 105 games this year, the Orioles were 32-73.
They also improved to 33-22 under Showalter, who has more wins than the Orioles' other two managers -- Dave Trembley (15 in 54 games) and Juan Samuel (17 in 51 games) -- had combined.
"The overall win-loss I don't think means as much as just the recent play," said Guthrie, who allowed just two hits and one walk in his eight scoreless innings to finish the season with an 11-14 record and a 3.83 ERA. Guthrie went 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA after the All-Star break. "Neither last season nor this season did we win enough games to really go home and hang our hats high and feel good about ourselves. But we have played really good baseball down the stretch, and if that's what we are going to play next year, then good things are ahead for us."
Adam Jones and Felix Pie combined to go 5-for-8 with seven RBIs in the first game as the Orioles scored six runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth off Jeremy Bonderman to open up a 9-1 lead for Tillman.
In the nightcap, Nick Markakis hit a solo homer in the third and infielder Robert Andino went 4-for-4 as the Orioles beat Rick Porcello despite hitting into four double plays. They hit into a total of seven double plays in the two games, but it didn't matter because of the strong outings they got from their starters.
"It all started on that mound," said Jones, who went 5-for-8 with four RBIs in the two games. "Our pitchers did everything they were supposed to do. Pitching is always important. That's the No. 1 thing. If you don't get pitching, you won't win. You see the last two months, we have a very good record. Our pitching's been very good. So there you go."
In 55 games under Showalter, the Orioles starters have a 3.17 ERA and have made 34 quality starts. In their final time through the rotation, Kevin Millwood, Tillman and Guthrie have given up just one earned run in 22 innings.
In the second game, the Orioles were one out away from their third shutout in the past five games, but closer Koji Uehara surrendered a home run to Don Kelly, whose homer accounted for the Tigers' lone run off Tillman in the first game. Uehara allowed a single to Brandon Inge before striking out Casper Wells (Towson University) to end it. Uehara struck out two and has fanned 32 batters since he last walked one.
"Jeremy should have had a complete game," Showalter said. "We catch the baseball better and he should be going in that last inning in the high 80s [in pitch count]. Very seldom do you look up there and see three errors and zeros on the other side and win a baseball game, and have some of the [men left on bases] we had. But Jeremy and Koji made it [not] matter. They were the difference."
The rare straight doubleheader was a result of the rainout of Thursday's scheduled series opener. There were fewer than 1,000 people in the seats for the start of the first game, and things were so quiet that the televisions on the concourses were audible in the seating bowl.
The Orioles played down to their surroundings for the first three innings, hitting into two double plays while failing to get a hit. But the offense erupted for six runs in the fourth, a rally started by Corey Patterson's bunt single, and that was more than enough for Tillman.
Relying heavily on his cut fastball, a pitch he started throwing this season, Tillman allowed three hits and two walks over seven innings to finish with 2-5 record and a 5.87 ERA in 11 outings.
"That last start of the year is always a big boost to the offseason," Tillman said. "Last year, I had that tough one going into the offseason, and it kind of sat there with me the whole offseason. It kind of gave me an extra kick in the butt, though. It's a lot better to end the season on a good note."