BOSTON -- It’s a word that Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter has tried to avoid as the calendar starts to creep toward September: need.
The Orioles, currently 6 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the American League East and within four games of claiming a wild-card spot, came to Boston this week with a chance to gain ground in the division.
After salvaging the final game of a three-game series Thursday night, has Showalter changed his stance on the word?
“I don’t think we really needed it. Certain situations I feel [like we need to win],” Showalter said. “It’s not something … the season doesn’t end [if we didn’t win Thursday].”
However, the Orioles did win, riding a strong performance from starting pitcher Chris Tillman to a 3-2 victory. With the wild-card-leading Rays and Athletics both losing Thursday afternoon, Showalter spoke of how important gaining ground was.
“We’ve got 30 games left and September’s an eternity,” he said. “A lot of people have been in the war, it’s a long [stretch] that starts here shortly and it’ll edge by and that’ll be good for us if we’re trying to catch up.”
Tillman paced the Orioles from the start, stranding Red Sox leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury on second after a single and wild pitch in the first inning and never looking back from there. The 25-year-old All-Star went seven innings, allowing only two runs and striking out eight on his way to his 15th win of the season.
“He’s been unbelievable for us, he’s been a horse,” said reliever Brian Matusz, who preserved Baltimore’s one-run lead by striking out David Ortiz swinging with Ellsbury on third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. “It’s great to see him get his 15th. He’s pitched so well in his last few outings and we weren’t able to finish it out for him so it’s great to see Tilly get a win.
“A guy who goes out there and goes seven, eight innings every outing. Fifteen wins at this point in the season against the American League East. There’s no doubt to say that he’s an ace.”
Although it took five starts for Tillman to get his 15th win, he's pitched well. The Orioles are 14-4 in his last 18 starts.
However, catcher Matt Wieters preferred to stay away from singling out anyone on the staff as its ace.
“I think, especially for us to get in the playoffs, we need everybody who goes out there to be an ace for us,” Wieters said. “At times, everybody on this staff has been able to carry the team and be able to help this team out. Tillman’s just really put together a consistent year for us, which is huge and what we needed.”
Need. A word that Wieters wasn’t afraid to use.
“We needed it,” Wieters said of the win. “Boston was really starting to stretch out their lead, especially when you play them head-to-head, you lose a couple of games and the lead gets stretched out a little bit. We needed it more than anything and we’re going to need a lot of games in New York and moving forward.”
What they need, the Orioles still believe they can get.
“Like I’ve said all along,” Showalter said, “don’t sell us short.”