O’s hopes in his hands

Till­man named starter against the Blue Jays’ Stro­man in must-win

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

TORONTO — Be­fore se­lect­ing righthander Chris Till­man to start tonight’s Amer­i­can League wild-card game against the Toronto Blue Jays, man­ager Buck Showal­ter con­sid­ered two other op­tions.

Ul­ti­mately he chose the team’s most con­sis­tent starter, but Showal­ter down­played the de­ci­sion, in­di­cat­ing the other starters he con­sid­ered — Ubaldo Jimenez and Dy­lan Bundy — could be used in the must-win game.

Both will be on the team’s 25-man play­off ros­ter for this round, which can be stacked with re­liev­ers and re­serves for the one game.

“It’s a good, tough one, be­cause we’ve got some peo­ple pitch­ing well,” Showal­ter said. “You know, we had prob­a­bly three op­tions, and Chris is one of those good op­tions. There’s not much sep­a­ra­tor t here. We’d feel good about any of the three guys, i nclud­ing Dy­lan. And all three may pitch in the game.”

The Blue Jays, who are 46-35 at Rogers Cen­tre this sea­son but lost two of three to the Ori­oles there last week, will start right-han­der Mar­cus Stro­man.

Stro­man, 25, was the Blue Jays’ Open­ing Day starter but pitched poorly be­fore the All-Star break, posting a 4.89 ERA. In Au­gust and Septem­ber, though, Stro­man, 5 feet 8, 180 pounds, has pitched to a 3.28 ERA, de­spite a 1-6 record.

Man­ager John Gib­bons’ se­lec­tion of Stro­man was a bit of a sur­prise, con­sid­er­ing Stro­man has a 7.04 ERA in four starts this sea­son against the Ori­oles.

An­other op­tion was trade-deadline ac­qui­si­tion Fran­cisco Liri­ano, a veteran left­hander who, in his only start against the Ori­oles this year, had 10 strike­outs in 61⁄ score­less in­nings last week.

Liri­ano, who pitched the Pittsburgh Pi­rates to a wild-card win in 2013, will likely be avail­able out of the bullpen, just as some of the Ori­oles’ typ­i­cal starters might be counted on to pitch mid­dle or late in­nings.

Showal­ter con­ceded he might man­age tonight’s game dif­fer­ently than he has over the course of the sea­son, given the sin­glegame dy­namic.

“There is a sense of fi­nal­ity,” Showal­ter said. “There are times dur­ing the sea­son you may not put your best foot for­ward so you can be con­sis­tent over the long haul, be­cause of health and putting peo­ple in harm’s way. Not that we’ll do that to­mor­row, but there are some dif­fer­ences that you have to grasp. You don’t worry about to­mor­row or the next day. Ev­ery­thing is about that nine in­nings or 10 or 11, what­ever it might be. There are some times dur­ing AL wild card Tonight, 8 TV: TBS Ra­dio: 105.7 FM INSIDE

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Ori­oles starter Chris Till­man de­liv­ers dur­ing a Sept. 17 game against Tampa Bay. Till­man is 16-6 in 30 starts this sea­son. the course of the game that it may hap­pen ear­lier than usual, that you may at­tack it dif­fer­ently.”

Still, turn­ing to Till­man, who is 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts this sea­son, isn’t much of a sur­prise, es­pe­cially if the Ori­oles are con­vinced he’s healthy com­ing back from a three-week stint on the dis­abled list. The Ori­oles are 22-8 in games started by Till­man, and he’s been the ro­ta­tion’s an­chor.

He’s come through when the team has needed him this year. Three times he earned a win to stop a three-game los­ing streak; twice he stopped a four-game skid.

“I take ev­ery game and ap­proach it the same way,” Till­man said. “[Try] not to put any added pres­sure on your­self. Just go out and try to do the same thing you do ev­ery other game.”

Till­man came one out shy of a qual­ity start in his last out­ing — Wed­nes­day in Toronto — as he al­lowed two runs (one earned) over 52⁄ in­nings in a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays. In that game, Till­man over­came an early 2-0 deficit and some hic­cups, in­clud­ing two er­rors in the first in­ning, his own er­rant pick­off throw being

Tale of the tape

Chris Till­man Mar­cus Stro­man W-L ERA BB SO WHIP 16-6 3.77 66 140 1.285 9-10 4.37 54 166 1.289 one of them.

“I think any­time you’re able to pitch well some­where or against a cer­tain team, I think it helps a lit­tle bit, but I don’t buy into that all that much,” Till­man said. “Ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery day you’re car­ry­ing dif­fer­ent stuff. You’ve got to find a way to nav­i­gate ev­ery game a dif­fer­ent way. I don’t dwell on the past too much, but we’ve played well here this year, and it’s been fun. I have seen them a lot and they’ve seen me a lot.”

Over his ca­reer, Till­man has strug­gled against the Blue Jays and at Rogers Cen­tre, but this sea­son he’s pitched bet­ter, posting a 3.63 ERA in four starts against Toronto. In two starts at Rogers Cen­tre this year, his ERA is 2.38.

Those num­bers are far bet­ter than those over his ca­reer against the Blue Jays. In 24 ca­reer starts against them, Till­man is 5-10 with a 5.44 ERA. His num­bers are worse when pitch­ing in Toronto — 2-6 with a 7.01 ERA in 13 starts. Last sea­son, Till­man was 0-4 with an 11.72 ERA in four starts against Toronto.

“There are no se­crets,” Till­man said. “I don’t think I’ve gone out of my way to do any­thing dif­fer­ent with these guys. It’s just the way the cookie crum­bles some­times. Last year didn’t go so well; this year has been a lit­tle bet­ter. I think we’re a very solid de­fen­sive team, and I think when you have that in the back of your mind as a start­ing pitcher, you’re go­ing to be able to at­tack the zone and make your de­fense work.”

Till­man will pitch on two ex­tra days’ rest, which Showal­ter said played a role in his de­ci­sion.

He said he gave strong con­sid­er­a­tion to Jimenez, who has a 2.45 ERA over his past seven starts and pitched 62⁄ score­less in­nings in his last start Thurs­day in Toronto. An­other op­tion was Bundy, who hasn’t started since Sept. 25. His only ex­pe­ri­ence against the Blue Jays this year is 32⁄ score­less re­lief in­nings.

“Just be­cause some­one’s not start­ing a game doesn’t mean they can’t be real im­pact­ful,” Showal­ter said. “And we looked at a lot of guys. We talked about even [Yo­vani] Gal­lardo, but he’s just had three days off and just re­ally doesn’t fit that bullpen feel­ing.”

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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