BALTIMORE -- In Chris Tillman's first three starts this season, the Orioles' right-hander had a troubling 11.91 ERA. While he lost for the fourth straight time on April 21, there were actually some tangible signs of progress.
Through five innings, the 30-year-old right-hander had allowed two runs on five hits, and in the fifth recorded just his third 1-2-3 inning of 2018.
However, Tillman gave up solo home runs in the sixth to Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez and first baseman Yonder Alonso on the way to a 4-0 Orioles loss.
Tillman had given up two homers in his first 11.1 innings, but in his first Oriole Park start this season, gave up three in six innings.
One sign of improvement was that Tillman walked just one batter and struck out five. Entering the game, he had walked 10 and struck out three.
While there may have been encouraging signs, Tillman hasn't won in his last 22 starts, since May 7, 2017. His ERA is now 9.87.
"Absolutely, it was a big stepping stone," Tillman said. "Any time you're able to find your command, I think that's the first part of any process…It was there for the most part throughout the game."
Tillman worked into the sixth inning for the second time in four starts. On April 7 at Yankee Stadium, he gave up three runs in the first five innings before allowing two in the sixth. He doesn't think there's anything remarkable about the sixth.
"If I make better pitches, we're talking about a whole different deal here, I think, and most starts, to be honest," Tillman said. "I've got to make better pitches. Get ahead. I fell behind both those guys in my last inning, so stay ahead and make my pitches."
Tillman had no help from the Orioles' offense. They had just two hits against Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger and were shut out for the second time this season. Clevinger retired the last 14 Orioles he faced.
Manager Buck Showalter thought he saw an improved Tillman.
"Obviously, there was very little margin for error with Clevinger," Showalter said.
"Did some things a lot better, somewhat better, and hopefully it's something to build on. What did he give up, three solo home runs? Usually, that type of outing gives us a quality chance to win. There were a couple pitches he'd probably like to have back.
"…The story was their pitcher and our inability to solve much off him. Hit a couple balls hard, that's about it. More than that a little bit. I thought a couple guys hit balls they ran down."
Tillman worked well with catcher Chance Sisco, who threw out all three baserunners who tried to steal against him. Sisco became the first Orioles catcher to throw out three basestealers since Matt Wieters on Aug. 25, 2012, and has now thrown out seven of the 11 runners who've tried to steal against him.
The Orioles were playing without left fielder Trey Mancini, who was out a day after he slid into the unpadded portion of the left field wall and banged his right knee.
"It's really sore today," Mancini said. "Obviously, it doesn't feel too good, but luckily avoided anything too serious there, no tears, no break. I just had to get a couple of stitches. It's just really swollen today. It's tough to bend my knee, but I'm hoping within a couple of days, it'll be good. The second I feel I can play, I'll be out there."
Mancini went for an MRI and no further injury was found. The Orioles hope Mancini will be able to avoid the disabled list, but were playing with just a two-man bench without him.
The Orioles fell to 6-15, and didn't capitalize on their win in the first of the four games against Cleveland. Tillman said that was disappointing.
"Yes because we didn't win, but their guy threw the ball really well," he said. "He was four runs better than me today—four pitches better than me. I think, you show up tomorrow and play another one. That guy threw the heck out of the ball. We've got to move on to tomorrow."