CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Manager Manny Acta #11 of the Cleveland Indians looks to the scoreboard during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field on July 21, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Chris Tillman was one of the big pieces of the Erik Bedard trade, but hasn't really put it together at the major-league yet. He was a very highly-rated prospect at the time of the trade and afterwards, and you could see why that was tonight. He had spent much of 2012 in Norfolk, his fourth year in AAA, and with the major-league staff in disarray, he was called up in early July for another opportunity. His first start was very good (8.1 IP, 0 ER), his second start abysmal (.2 IP, 7 R), and this one was good. He went 6.2 innings and gave up 1 run (Choo's home run) on 6 hits and a walk. He had to throw a lot of pitches (116) to get that far, as although he wasn't wild, he wasn't efficient in his at-bats.
Zach McAllister, on the other hand, would be scouted as having the better pitching performance on the evening, but obviously came out of the short end of things thanks to two mistakes.He struck out 6, walked nobody, and was very efficient with his pitches, throwing 95 pitches to record 23 outs. He gave up five hits, but two of those were home runs. LGFT Jim Thome didn't miss a fastball down and in, and he roped his 611th home run in the seventh to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Ryan Flaherty added a solo home run in the eighth, a shot than landed well over the center field fence.
The Tribe's minor-league staff deserves a lot of credit for turning McAllister into what he is today, because although he came to the organization with fairly good minor-league strikeout rates, he didn't project as a major-league power pitcher. Now that he's throwing a very effective four-seam fastball, he's getting lots of whiffs, and making his curve a lot more effective, as it's entering the strike zone at a completely different eye level as the fastball. Is it fair to say after 9 starts he's the best pitcher in the rotation? Only Justin Masterson really has an argument, but Masterson has mixed in a couple of clunkers among his starts, while McAllister's worst outing wasn't far from a quality start (5.2 IP 3 ER on May 12th in Boston).
We're a turning point in the season right now. The Indians have two more games against the Orioles, then a key three-game home series against the Tigers. With the Tigers now in first place and 3.5 games ahead of the Indians, the next five games will either vault the Indians back into serious contention or perhaps send them out of even Wild Card contention, because although the Indians are 3 games behind the Angels/Orioles/White Sox for one of the spots, there's six teams ahead of them in the standings.