It’s become quite obvious that Chris Tillman is the ace of the Baltimore Orioles‘ staff and is one of the top pitchers in the American League, but he threw 122 pitches in only five innings of work against the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. That isn’t exactly the epitome what an ace is, but when you look closer, this very mediocre start further solidifies Tillman as one of baseball’s best pitchers.
Over five innings of work, Tillman clearly didn’t have his best stuff. The right-hander was limited to throwing only fastballs and change-ups for the majority of his outing as he grinded through five innings in frigid weather. The temperature was 35 degrees when Tillman exited the game in the fifth with a 6-3 lead. In those five innings, Tillman gave up three runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking four. Again, pretty bad numbers from a so-called “ace.”
Buck Showalter, Baltimore’s manager, would’ve pulled any of the Orioles’ other starting pitchers if they got in a situation like Tillman did. But, because it was Chris Tillman on the mound the loyal skipper left his guy out there and Tillman didn’t let him down, striking out Jackie Bradley Jr., on his 122nd pitch of the night after a long at-bat with runners on base.
Not only does Showalter’s utmost trust for Tillman show that he’s an elite pitcher the way that Tillman handled the situation also shows Tillman’s true colors. Throughout the entire inning he never looked discouraged, in fact, Tillman look determined to put his team in the best position to win by escaping the jam and showing everyone why he has Buck Showalter’s trust. That’s a great quality to have in any player, let alone the leader of your pitching staff.
Tillman’s gutsy outing is the type of outing that inspires the other starters to go out there and leave it all on the field. Every pitcher has days where he doesn’t have his best stuff, but what separates good pitchers from great pitchers is their ability succeed no matter what the circumstances. Tillman did exactly that, he didn’t have his best stuff against the defending World Champions and he got himself into trouble early with his pitch count. But none of that mattered. Tillman found a way to get a win against a tough opponent on the road against all odds. That’s what an ace is.