Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman checks the Boston Red Sox runner at first base during the first inning at Camden Yards in Baltimore, June 4, 2017. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo
BOSTON -- Perhaps a visit to Fenway Park is just what the doctor ordered for Chris Tillman.
If that sounds strange, given that the Red Sox are on fire out of the 2018 gate, Tillman has a track record against Boston he might be able to rely on to get his first win since last May 7.
You read that right -- last May 7.
Tillman, once the ace of the Baltimore staff, won his first start of the season in 2017 and hasn't won since. In 20 starts since, he is 0-9 -- and he pitches for the Orioles against former Baltimore farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez on Friday night in the opener of a four-game series against the 10-2 Red Sox.
Tillman, given a shot at a comeback by the pitching-starved Birds, has allowed nine runs on 15 hits in his first two starts -- the second outing better than the first -- and he is 0-2 with an 8.68 as he enters Friday's start. He had a 7.84 ERA last season as he battled shoulder trouble that delayed the start of the season.
But the right-hander is 10-4 with a 3.03 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox, 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA at Fenway Park. But the Tillman who ran up those numbers is not the Tillman pitching in 2018, where his velocity has been down under 90 mph.
His manager, Buck Showalter, saw some positive signs in last Saturday's loss to the Yankees in the Bronx.
"I thought Chris was better today," Showalter said. "And there's still another level where we know he can go to. We really had a need to get some length out of our starter today and Chris provided that and kept us engaged in the game."
Alex Cobb, signed late as a free agent, makes his Orioles debut Saturday, in a four-game series that ends with a Monday morning game on Patriots Day. But first, the focus is on Tillman.
The Red Sox opened the season by blowing a game in St. Petersburg and then reeled off nine straight wins before losing to the Yankees Wednesday night. They came back and beat New York in the rain Thursday to get to 10-2.
Rodriguez, coming back from offseason knee surgery, made his first start of the season last Sunday and had a mixed bag of a game with seven strikeouts but five hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings.
His main problem Sunday was not being able to get his changeup working.
"He was a one-pitch pitcher today," manager Alex Cora said. "He only threw one good changeup to Gomez on a 3-2 pitch, but besides that his changeup wasn't great. You saw it. Infield hits, bloop singles, the 3-1 pitch to (C.J.) Cron -- you take that. You don't want to walk him.
"But when you only have one pitch, that's what's going to happen. Teams are going to adjust and they're going to foul pitches off. I thought overall he was good."
The Red Sox have been dealing with a sudden rash of injuries this week. First, they lost Xander Bogaerts for what is supposed to be 10-14 days with a crack in his left ankle. Then, David Price left Wednesday's start after an inning because he couldn't get feeling in his fingers. He's said to be fine and will start Tuesday with an extra days' rest. Rookie reliever Bobby Poyner replaced Price and wound up on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.
Then, Thursday, Hanley Ramirez, off to a strong start, was hit by a Sonny Gray pitch and suffered a right wrist contusion, leaving the game. Cora said after the game Ramirez actually was hit on both hands and is day-to-day but likely to rest Friday.
Rodriguez is 3-5 with a 4.67 ERA against his old team but hasn't been beaten up by most of the players individually. Adam Jones and Manny Machado are both 6-for-25 (.240) but Jones has two homers. Jonathan Schoop is 4-for-19 (.211), the disabled Mark Trumbo 4-for-20 (.200) with a homer and Danny Valencia 2-for-12 (.167).
Brock Holt is 7-for-13 (.538), Jackie Bradley Jr. 6-for-16 (.375) and Mitch Moreland 4-for-12 (.333) against Tillman. But J.D. Martinez is 1-for-12 (.083), Ramirez 1-for-10 (.100) and Christian Vazquez 1-for-7 (.143).