Baltimore Orioles Host Game 1 of the AL Championship Series


Oct 2, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) pitches during the first inning in game one of the 2014 American League divisional series against the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Finally the day is here for the American League Championship Series to begin with Game 1 being hosted by the Baltimore Orioles. It felt like a month between games before the Divisional Series began, and now it seems the same since the last time the Orioles played baseball.

Hopefully the O’s can take this playoffs to the end, and a great benefit for all of us out here will be the shortest offseason in practically anyone’s memory. A day without Baltimore Orioles baseball now just feels so, so … so wrong!

Having said all of that, we might not get a baseball game today either. The weather does not look great. At this moment on Friday morning, the chances for rain in Baltimore at 8:00 tonight are 50%, increasing to 80% by midnight.

Chris Tillman will of course be the Baltimore starter in Game 1.  For his career he is 45-31 with a perfect 4.00 ERA. The pivotal date in his history with the Orioles was July 4th of 2012. Prior to that his record was 7-15 with a fairly high ERA and maddening inconsistency. Everyone could see the talent, but it was not translating into much success.

But on that Independence Day two years ago when called up from the minors, Tillman gave up just two hits in 8.1 innings in Seattle. He was a new guy completely. Since then, in 82 starts he is 38-16 with a 3.42 ERA.  He may not qualify as an ace, whatever that means, but he is generally very effective. Sometimes the early innings get to him and cause him to struggle to find a groove, as on May 1st of this year in the first game of a doubleheader against the Pirates – over 50 pitches in inning one. I was there that day; it was tedious. But he struggled through it, held down the damage to three runs in 4.2 innings, and the Orioles ended up winning the game.

It was three games later on May 16th that Tillman started against the Royals in Kansas City. It was certainly his best outing of the season, as he held them to only five hits in a complete game shutout while throwing 117 pitches. It was a beautiful pitching performance to watch. At that point of the season his ERA was 3.34 – which equals his final ERA number at the end of the year.

If you take out Tillman’s two starts of only one inning each, his ERA for the season is 2.81.

But then he got shelled the next game in Pittsburgh for eight runs in one inning. And then again just three weeks later the Rangers hit him for five runs in only one inning. If you take out those two starts that only went one inning each, Tillman’s final ERA would be 2.81.

The Orioles will be facing 14-8, 2.81 ERA James Shields. The bad news is that he has twice beaten the Birds this year, going seven innings both times – giving up a total of five runs on 12 hits. But again, that was in April and May when the Orioles were not quite the same team they are right now. Prior to this season, Shields’ last previous start against the O’s was in 2012.

The J.J. Hardy Deal

Big news from yesterday was the three-year, $40-million extension deal for J.J. Hardy. Tell me you saw that one coming! No, you didn’t, nor did anyone. The timing seems odd, but think about it. It creates a ton of good will going into the biggest series the Orioles have played in 17 years. The contract speaks of rewarding success and presents Baltimore as willing to spend money to keep winning.

Hardy has hit for a better average this year, even if his power numbers have gone down. J.J. is among the best in the league at hitting with runners in scoring position. His defense is among the very best at the position, though he won’t be a Gold Glove winner this season. With Manny Machado at third base and Jonathan Schoop at second, the Orioles have solidified the infield for three to four years to come. That is a good move.