Orioles starter Chris Tillman reacts during his abbreviated… (Getty photo )
NEW YORK — A start that Chris Tillman waited 48 hours to make was over in less than an hour, leaving the Orioles in a six-run hole, and with even more questions about whether the young right-hander can consistently get big league hitters out.
Tillman never gave his teammates even a fighting chance Wednesday night to beat the New York Yankees. He allowed hits to the first four batters he faced, including a three-run homer to Alex Rodriguez. He then permitted five of the seven hitters he faced in the second inning to reach base, and three of them to score.
When Robinson Cano's two-run double skipped through the wet outfield grass at Yankee Stadium, Orioles manager Buck Showalter burst out of the dugout to bring a merciful end to Tillman's night. It was too bad the Orioles had to play seven more innings in damp and chilly conditions before the end of theirs.
A 7-4 loss to New York before an announced crowd of 42,171, which got a little nervous in the seventh inning when Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts connected for two-run homers off A.J. Burnett, knocked the Orioles (6-4) out of sole possession of first place in the American League East, marked their third consecutive defeat and was an ominous start to a road trip that went from six games to five with Tuesday night's rainout.
"Not good, not good enough." Showalter said of Tillman. "We're going to have to get better than that. I think [he] had three first-pitch strikes against 17 hitters. I don't care where you're playing. The ball was up all night, and they made him pay."
Tillman was supposed to start Tuesday before the rains came and his outing was pushed back a day. Now, he and Showalter are facing questions whether he will -- or at least should -- make his next start, which would come Monday.
If the Orioles had other viable rotation options, it might be a more difficult question to answer. But Justin Duchscherer and Brian Matusz are on the disabled list, Brad Bergesen is needed to start Sunday and the Orioles' Triple-A rotation is stocked with veteran journeymen like Ryan Drese and Chris George.
"There are always options if you have to make an adjustment. We hope not," Showalter said. "I'm not at that point now. We just go through a game. He pitched one good game statistically, so-so in the [second] one and struggled tonight."
The Orioles' top decision-makers won't sit through too many performances like the one Tillman dialed up Wednesday in the Orioles' first game since Sunday. He allowed six runs on nine hits and walked one in just 1 2/3 innings, the second shortest start of his career. Over his past two outings, Tillman has surrendered 10 earned runs, 15 hits and three walks in six total innings, his ERA ballooning to 7.30.
"The results are [the] results. I think anybody would be disappointed in this, you know?" said Tillman, who turns 23 on Friday and has made 26 career big league starts. "I'm more disappointed that I made some good pitches and when it counted, I didn't make those pitches. I missed middle almost every single one of those pitches, whether it was up or down. It just goes to show, that's not going to cut it here."
One of the five outs that he got came courtesy of Matt Wieters throwing out Brett Gardner trying to steal second. But Tillman responded to his good fortune -- and his catcher's perfect throw -- by allowing four of the next five hitters he faced to reach base. That stretch started with back-to-back singles by Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira whose hit broke an 0-for-18 skid. Rodriguez then deposited Tillman's 2-0 pitch into the right-field seats.
It was an at-bat that typified Tillman's struggles. He fell behind 2-0, one of several times during his brief outing in which he put himself in an early hole. He then threw a 91 mph fastball, one of his hardest of the night but not enough to get it by one of the game's best power hitters in a fastball count.
"We were a couple pitches way from being a little better than 6-0, but we got behind the counts early," said Wieters, who had a strong game offensively, going 2-for-3 with his first homer, a double and a walk. "With this lineup, you can't get behind the count and have to come in there with a fastball. They knew what was coming."
Tillman's line actually could have been worse had center fielder Adam Jones not made a great diving catch on Jorge Posada's two-out, bases-loaded blooper in the second inning off of Chris Jakubauskas, who inherited two of Tillman's base runners. Jakubauskas allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings on Posada's solo homer in the fifth that broke an 0-for-19 stretch for the designated hitter and gave the Yankees a 7-0 lead.
The score stayed that way until the seventh inning, when Wieters clobbered Burnett's 2-0 fastball into the right-field seats. Before the homer, the Orioles had scored just one run in their past 30 innings. They quickly added two more when Burnett walked Robert Andino and surrendered a homer to Brian Roberts. The two-run shot gave Roberts a team-leading three home runs and 10 RBIs this season.
It, however, was not enough to rescue the Orioles on a night when their starting pitcher didn't even give them a chance.
"We just didn't pitch well early in the game," Showalter said. "That's what made it tough to win a game. You keep that at two, three, four runs, we're right there."