Chris Tillman may not have the name recognition of some of the game's best pitchers, but he seems like a lock to start a playoff opener for the AL East champion Baltimore Orioles.
Few starting pitchers have been more consistent over the past three-plus months than Tillman, who tries to help prevent the Orioles from rare consecutive home losses Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox.Baltimore's rotation has quietly been baseball's best this month, posting a major league-best 1.78 ERA and .213 opponents' batting average over the last 17 games. Every member of the staff has contributed during that run, but none moreso than Tillman (12-5, 3.29 ERA), who is 5-0 with a 1.70 ERA in his past nine starts.The right-hander has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 19 consecutive starts, tying Milt Pappas for the third-longest streak in franchise history.Tillman notched his 15th quality start in that span Sunday against the Yankees, allowing one run and five hits over 6 2/3 innings while walking one and striking out six."You have to command the fastball to both sides, throw the offspeed when you need to," he told MLB's official website.This will be the fifth start this season against Boston for Tillman, who is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in the first four. He's limited the Red Sox to two runs over 11 innings in two meetings this year at Camden Yards.David Ortiz is 2 for 24 lifetime against Tillman, while Will Middlebrooks (0 for 18) and Xander Bogaerts (2 for 11) also have struggled in this matchup.Ortiz had no problems in Friday's series opener, homering in the fourth inning before hitting a two-run shot in the 10th to lift Boston to a 5-3 victory. Yoenis Cespedes also went deep as the Red Sox ended a five-game skid to Baltimore (92-61) and handed the Orioles only their second loss in 12 games.Ortiz moved into a second-place tie with Jim Rice for 100-RBI seasons with Boston, one behind Ted Williams, who had nine."It's a big compliment to be mentioned with him. It's something I have done with a lot of consistency and hard work," Ortiz said. "I have to come in and do my best every day regardless of how the team is playing."Despite being in pursuit of the Angels for the league's best record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason, Baltimore rested starters Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy. The Orioles dropped to a major league-best 30-9 at home since last losing two straight there June 28-29.Alejandro De Aza continued to make his late-season acquisition look like a good one, collecting two doubles and a single. He's 19 for 54 (.352) with nine extra-base hits in 13 games with Baltimore.Nelson Cruz also had three hits and is 12 for 28 during a seven-game hitting streak.Rubby De La Rosa (4-7, 4.31) seeks his first win in more than a month for Boston.The right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.91 ERA in six starts since beating the Angels on Aug. 10. While De La Rosa has completed five innings just once in his last four outings, he also hasn't received much support from his teammates, who have totaled six runs with him on the mound in those games.It was another struggle last Saturday at Kansas City, where the Royals reached him for five runs and six hits over four innings in a 7-1 win.De La Rosa was a 6-0 loser June 11 in his first career start against the Orioles, yielding four runs in 5 2/3 innings.