Under the circumstances you’d think the Orioles might want to keep their powder dry and hold back their best starter for the more important game that they’ll be playing in the next two days no matter the outcome of tonight’s games. Buck Showalter, however, feels differently, and will indeed run Tillman out to start tonight’s game as of this afternoon’s available information. “At the very worst, we’re one down [in the division] and one to play, and he’s the best we have available to go tomorrow,” Showalter told reporters last night. “There were some things that could have happened that would have changed that, though.”
In a pure baseball sense, this decision doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Orioles for the reasons stated above. Tillman could pitch 18 perfect innings tonight, but if the Yankees beat Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox it won’t make a fig of difference in the A.L. East race. What a win would do, however, is guarantee the Orioles at least one more home game, either on Thursday against the Yankees or on Friday against the second wild card team. That may not seem like much, but given a fanbase that’s become downright rabid after suffering through 14 straight losing seasons, I think there’s a plausible argument to be made that getting a home playoff atmosphere type of game in October could be a huge boon for the franchise.
Be that as it may, if the Orioles do start Tillman tonight it will be a small boon to the Yankees. Ideally the Bombers would complete the sweep of Boston and take care of their own business, but in the event they drop their pants tonight, they can at least be reassured by the knowledge tht they won’t be facing the O’s best pitcher tomorrow night. Instead, they’ll likely get rookie Steve Johnson, who’s been one of those amazing surprises that have carried the Orioles to where they are now. Then again, winning the franchise’s most important game in 15 seasons behind a starter with a career 4.17 ERA in the minor leagues would just be the epitome of this year for Baltimore, wouldn’t it?