Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman accomplished a rare feat over the weekend, becoming just the fifth hurler in franchise history to win 13 of his first 15 decisions to begin a season, per Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info).

Tillman needed everything he had to improve to 13-2 in Saturday’s 2-1 road win over the Tampa Bay Rays, as Tampa lefty Matt Moore held the powerful Orioles lineup to just two runs on five hits and a walk over 7.1 innings at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field despite striking out only one of the 27 batters he faced.

Tillman was just a bit better, striking out three batters over seven innings of one-run ball, with the Rays scraping out four hits and three free passes along the way.

The standout Baltimore bullpen held things down from there, as setup man Brad Brach (0.88 ERA, 17 holds) and closer Zach Britton (0.68 ERA, 29 saves) showcased their typical dominant form by tossing a perfect inning apiece.

The 28-year-old Tillman has more than bounced back from an ugly 2015 campaign, dropping his ERA from 4.99 to 3.29 and his WHIP from 1.39 to 1.21. Although he’s been fortunate to strand 81.1 percent of baserunners while also holding opponents to a .263 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), Tillman deserves major credit for increasing his strikeout rate from last year’s 16.2 percent to this season’s 20.6 percent.

And while his record may come under scrutiny due to his team’s prolific offense, the Orioles have actually averaged 4.6 runs in Tillman’s 20 outings, compared to 5.1 in the team’s other 70 games. Granted, nine of the 13 wins came in games decided by three or fewer runs, which speaks volumes to Baltimore’s perennially strong relief corps.

Regardless, Tillman is starting to build a dark-horse Cy Young Award case for the first-place O’s, ranking second in the American League in wins (13), ninth in innings (120.1) and 17th in strikeouts (101) as well as ninth among qualified starters in ERA (3.29) and 15th in WHIP (1.21).

Those numbers wouldn’t stand a chance most seasons, but a strong second half could still put him right in the mix, as only four qualified AL starters enter Monday with sub-3.00 ERAs.

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