BALTIMORE (AP) — Chris Tillman has transcended his role as the ace of the Baltimore Orioles.
Unbeaten since April 14, and riding a seven-game winning streak, the right-hander has earned the right to be considered among the best pitchers in the American League.
Tillman pitched effectively into the eighth inning, Ryan Flaherty drove in two runs and the Orioles extended the Kansas City Royals’ losing streak to seven games with a 4-0 victory Wednesday night.
Tillman (8-1) allowed eight hits over 7 1/3 innings, matched his career high with nine strikeouts and walked none. He is unbeaten in 10 starts since April 14, 6-0 at home and tied for second in the AL in wins.
“I think fastball command from the get-go was pretty spot on,” Tillman said.” I felt pretty good in the bullpen coming in and I was able to carry it over.”
In equaling his career high for successive wins, Tillman lowered his ERA to 3.01. A year ago, he finished 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA.
“You can make a heck of a living going 11-11 in the big leagues,” manager Buck Showalter said. “But Chris wants to be better than that because he knows he’s capable of it and wants to bring what the club needs.”
Showalter believes the 28-year-old Tillman now understands what it takes to win.
“It’s a certain maturity factor. It’s tunnel vision toward that day you pitch,” the manager said. “Everything you do is leading into that. That’s where he is now. He relishes the day he gets to do his thing.”
Brad Brach got the final five outs to earn his second save and help the Orioles complete their first three-game sweep of Kansas City since May 2011. Baltimore has won four straight and seven of eight.
The Orioles took control with a four-run fifth inning against Edinson Volquez (5-6). Flaherty had the key hit, a bases-loaded double that broke open a 0-0 game. Adam Jones followed with a sacrifice fly and Hyun Soo Kim capped the uprising with an RBI single.
Salvador Perez had two hits for the Royals, who have been outscored 42-8 during a skid that’s dropped them from first place to third in the AL Central. The defending World Series champions have scored four runs over their last six games and been blanked twice.
“Tillman was pretty darn good tonight, I’m going to tell you that,” manager Ned Yost said. “Guys were having trouble picking up his fastball.”
The last time Kansas City lost seven straight was in August 2013.
“It’s very frustrating because I know we’re all capable of playing a lot better,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “We’re all struggling. We have to find a way to get it going.”
Volquez was exceptionally sharp over the first four innings, retiring 12 of 13 batters and allowing just one hit. The trouble started after he got the first out in the fifth.
Two walks and a single preceded the key hit by Flaherty, who began the game batting .213.
There was no extension of the hostility created Tuesday night, when the teams emptied their dugouts in a fray that started when Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura hit Manny Machado with a pitch.
“It was water under the bridge as soon as we left here last night,” Brach said. “Guys came here ready to play.”
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was given the day off, his first of the season. Although Davis is in a 3-for-29 slump, Showalter said the break was designed to allow some bumps and bruises to heal.