Chris Tillman has been referred to as an “ace” by some and “average” by others. On Thursday night, I think he earned the “ace” title on in the Orioles 12-3 win over the Tigers in game one of the ALDS. A lot of pressure was put on Tillman as the O’s top starter as he matched up against 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, but Tilly gutted through five innings and earned the victory in front of the home fans at Camden Yards.
While the sellout crowd waved their orange towels, Tillman came out in the first inning and struck out the side in order. Even two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera looked like he couldn’t touch him. But in the second inning, things got a little more complicated as Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back long balls to tie the game at two.
Tillman could have been shaken up by the power in Detroit’s lineup, but he kept his composure and went back to dealing.
The Tigers fought off pitch, after pitch, and ratcheted up Tillman’s pitch count with large quantities of foul balls, but he still managed to give Buck Showalter five very strong innings and set things up for Andrew Miller, Darren O’Day, Zach Britton, and eventually Tommy Hunter after the O’s offense scored eight runs in the eighth.
Aces don’t falter mistakes and they tend to bounce back stronger. On the biggest stage of Tillman’s career (so far), he showed to the baseball world on Thursday night why he should be in the ace conversation.