Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night?
In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 58th game of the 2016 season.
1st — Chris Tillman wasn’t sure when asked if he was carrying his best stuff of the season, but it looked like it as he pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings while allowing eight hits and matching a career high with nine strikeouts without walking a single batter. The right-hander commanded all of his pitches and was particularly good locating his fastball throughout the night. Not only did Tillman throw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 29 hitters he faced, but he got an impressive 19 swinging strikes as a struggling Royals lineup struggled to make contact and hit the ball hard. Though he entered Wednesday’s game averaging 3.7 walks per game and can struggle with command from time to time, Tillman went to three-ball counts on just two hitters and threw just 29 balls out of his 110 pitches. Simply put, Tillman was exceptional in his longest start of the season.
2nd — Ryan Flaherty is known for his versatility in the field but not for his bat, making his recent contributions at the plate a pleasant development. With the bases loaded and the game scoreless in the fifth, Flaherty doubled to right off Edinson Volquez to score two, which would be all Baltimore needed to earn its first three-game sweep of the Royals since 2011. The third baseman has now hit safely in eight of his last 10 games, batting .308 with two doubles, a home run, seven runs, and seven RBIs. Flaherty also turned a terrific double play in the second, catching a Jarrod Dyson bunt in the air and immediately firing to second to double off Cheslor Cuthbert.
3rd — Brad Brach took over for Tillman with two men on and one out in the eighth and eventually escaped with the potential tying run at the plate after he had issued a two-out walk. The right-hander lowered his season ERA to a remarkable 0.84 by pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts to close out the victory. The performance gave Brach his second save of the season as he now has 37 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings.
Home — Hyun Soo Kim knocked in the final run of the night with an RBI single and also collected the first stolen base of his major league career in the fifth. He is now hitting .372 on the season. … The Orioles improved to a season-best 12 games above .500 and finished a 7-3 homestand to increase their lead in the AL East to 1 1/2 games entering Thursday. … Losers of seven straight, the Royals scored just two runs over the three-game series at Camden Yards and have plated only four in their last six contests. … Though he struck out a season-worst four times, Mark Trumbo made his first start of the year at first base as Chris Davis missed his first game of 2016 with a couple physical issues, according to Buck Showalter. … The Orioles recorded their third shutout victory of the season. … Tyler Wilson will go to the hill to open a four-game set in Toronto while the Blue Jays will start right-hander Marcus Stroman on Thursday night.