08/14/09 10:49 PM ET
Big outburst helps Tillman earn first win
O's go for season-high 16 runs on 19 hits; Pie hits for cycle
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Orioles saw their slumbering offense erupt in support of rookie Chris Tillman on Friday, taking an early deficit and turning it into an afterthought. Baltimore scored six runs in the first inning and set a season-high output, helping Tillman to his first career win in a 16-6 victory over the Angels.
The Orioles -- both individually and collectively -- achieved a litany of milestones in the win. Felix Pie paced the team by scoring three runs and hitting for the cycle, and Baltimore tied a franchise record and set a American League season high with nine doubles. The Orioles also tied a franchise mark with 12 extra-base hits.
Nobody was more proud of the effort than hitting coach Terry Crowley, who has seen his charges struggle through a disappointing season. Baltimore had scored just 12 runs in its past five games, and Crowley said that he was in a transparently bad mood before the game, an emotion that his players may have sensed.
"I think things were adding up a little bit," said Crowley. "This is a season about getting some key players some at-bats and building for the future. Sometimes, when you lose ballgames, you have a tendency to lose perspective about what this year is about. Having to answer questions about wins and losses was getting me down a little bit, because I know we're making progress in areas that will show up next year and the year after."
That may well be true, but the recent trends didn't show it. Baltimore (48-67) had scored four runs or fewer in 16 of its previous 26 games and racked up an 8-18 record over that span. Meanwhile, the Angels (68-45) had been 19-7 since the All-Star break, a record that ranked second in the Major Leagues behind the Yankees.
And from the opening pitch, it seemed that Los Angeles would assert its will. Tillman walked the first two batters he faced in the first inning, and the Angels wound up taking a two-run lead. Brian Roberts answered with a leadoff double in the bottom half, and three hitters later, Aubrey Huff tied the game with a ringing double.
The Orioles would go on to bat around -- sending 11 hitters to the plate -- and score four more times in their opening salvo, and Crowley said that quick turnaround went a long way toward sealing the final result.
"Robbie started it right from jump street," he said. "It seemed like he got a double every time up today, and Huffy got us even right away. The first inning, when Huffy hits that double, that erases everything they did in the top half. Now, it's a fresh ballgame, and everybody was swinging the bat good today. I was proud of them."
The Orioles scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings before putting the game away later. The Angels had scored two runs and crept to a four-run deficit in the top of the seventh, but Baltimore swept them away with seven runs in the bottom half, a rally started and punctuated by hits from reserve outfielder Pie.
Pie, who doubled in the first inning and homered in the third, ignited the final burst with an infield single. Much later in the inning, he drove in two runs with a triple to the right-center gap. Pie became just the fourth Oriole in franchise history to hit for the cycle, and he celebrated the achievement jubilantly while standing on third.
"For Pie to do it, that leaves him in pretty special company," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "It probably makes him feel real good, because he's put in a lot of hard work. And he's turned the corner as far as being a professional and being accepted in the clubhouse. He brings a lot of energy when he plays."
Pie joined Huff, Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson as the only Orioles to hit for the cycle, but Baltimore had several other hitters distinguish themselves on Friday, too. Roberts, who leads the Major Leagues with 43 doubles, had three two-baggers, the third time in his career that he's managed to do that.
Eight of Baltimore's nine starters scored, and Nick Markakis doubled late to extend an impressive streak. Markakis has now reached base safely in 34 straight games, the longest active streak in the Majors and the third-longest this season. But on this night, the individual achievements merged with the impressive team theme.
"You don't expect Anaheim to come to town and score 16 runs [against them]," said Roberts, a two-time All-Star and the second-longest tenured member of the team. "That's for sure. But we all know when it starts to roll, it just happens like that on a night. A lot of us needed that, and it was fun and it helps everybody relax a little bit."
That may also apply to Tillman, who used the support to rebound from a rocky first inning. The 21-year-old was a different pitcher with a lead, and he controlled the game into the seventh. The right-hander gave up seven hits and three earned runs, but he said the meaning of the game went way beyond the box score.
"It's every kid's dream to pitch in the big leagues," said Tillman of the moment's importance. "And to finally be here and to get the win -- especially with Felix doing what he did tonight -- that's awesome. It's a special night for him. And for the team, getting nine doubles tonight, it was good to see the guys swing it like that."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.