ANAHEIM -- Despite spending parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues, Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman had never pitched in Anaheim, as the native of Fountain Valley, Calif., faced the Angels just once in 56 career starts.
The homecoming was worth the wait. Tillman fired a season-high eight scoreless innings, becoming just the second Orioles starter to make it that far this year in a dominant 114-pitch effort that highlighted Baltimore's 5-1 win in front of 35,118 at Angel Stadium.
With 25 tickets left at the gate and double that figure arriving on their own through the same turnstiles Tillman came through when he made the short -- and frequent -- drive to see his hometown club, the 25-year-old righty put on a show for his family and friends. Tillman overcame a rocky first inning that included a pair of walks and held a listless Angels lineup to just three hits as Anaheim suffered its seventh loss in nine games.
"I remember sitting there, and it looked like it was going to be a 20-pitch-an-inning outing," manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman, who breezed through the middle innings to ensure a long stay. "Pitching that eighth inning was huge. I know there's about seven guys down in the bullpen who really liked it."
Tillman's superb performance, which improved the Orioles to 5-3 on a three-city West Coast trip, also gave an overworked bullpen -- that entered Thursday with 42 1/3 innings thrown in 12 days -- some rare reprieve.
"We had a talk before: We need to give those guys a rest," said Tillman, who joins Wei-Yin Chen as the only Orioles starter to complete seven innings so far this season. "They've been throwing a lot. It's big to have a start like that. Guys deserve the rest, they've been pitching their butts off for us."
How did Tillman do it? He got ahead. Following a stellar inning-ending putout from right fielder Nick Markakis, who threw out Mike Trout at home plate in the first, Tillman took over and pounded the zone. He didn't issue a walk after the first inning and struck out three, retiring 20 of the final 21 batters he faced.
"I'm sure he was going to hear about it from his family and friends if he didn't go out and do what he did," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. "He had his fastball command, his changeup command and his curveball command and he worked quick. He threw strikes, and most importantly, he threw strike one."
Tillman needed 77 pitches to get through five innings and was on cruise control for most of the evening, retiring 11 straight before Erick Aybar's single to start the sixth. He then plowed through the middle of the order, retiring Trout and Albert Pujols on a pair of flyouts and getting Mark Trumbo to pop up.
"It was a tough lineup, so we knew we'd have to mix a lot of pitches to keep them off balance," catcher Matt Wieters said. "The biggest thing was that Tillman was able to control the ball in tonight. He was able to back them off the plate a little bit and throw some strikes in where you couldn't just lean out there. That made his offspeed stuff even better."
"We didn't get too many good looks at him, and when we did they made strong defensive plays," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously [he's] a young pitcher that's coming into his own and starting to understand his stuff, but he hit both sides of the plate today, threw some good breaking balls. He pitched a strong game. He sure did."
The Orioles scored three runs off struggling Angels starter Joe Blanton, with the first coming when Manny Machado, who has a team-high 11-game hitting streak, hit an RBI single in the third. Chris Davis, who was named the American League Player of the Month earlier in the day, drove in Jones in the sixth and the O's capitalized on a two-base error to push the lead to three in the seventh.
Nolan Reimold reached second on third baseman Brendan Harris' errant throw and moved to third on Nate McLouth's groundout. After Machado walked, Markakis drilled a ball into right field for an RBI double, with McLouth adding a two-run ninth-inning homer for the team's final score. Blanton, who entered the game 0-4 with a 7.09 ERA, had his first 1-2-3 inning this season in the fifth inning of his sixth game and turned in his best start of 2013 in going eight.
But the night belong to Tillman, who improved to 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA against the Angels and 9-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 11 starts against the AL West. Tillman, who had his highest pitch count since July 21, 2012, handed the ball off to closer Jim Johnson, who allowed a solo homer to Pujols before wrapping up the team's 17th win.
"It's special," Tillman said. "I think it's always fun to pitch in front of your family and friends, especially to pitch a good one like that. I was happy with it."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.