Chris Tillman took a huge step backward in 2015 with his struggles playing a big role in a disappointing season for the Baltimore Orioles.
His performances this year bode well for a team aiming for a return to the postseason.
After going 29-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 2013 and '14 to give Baltimore a reliable arm at the top of its rotation, Tillman regressed last season and the Orioles finished 81-81. He went 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA and needed a strong finish to get that under five.
Excluding his season debut that was cut to two innings by rain, Tillman (3-1, 2.81 ERA) has been very effective in four of five outings and has been especially dominant in the last three. He has gone 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in those starts while fanning 22 over 19 2/3 innings.
The right-hander matched his career high with nine strikeouts for the second consecutive start and surrendered one run and five hits in seven innings of Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Yankees.
"I think it's being able to throw my offspeed for strikes," Tillman told the team's official website. "It's been something that I worked on a lot last year and it never really came along for me in spring training."
Tillman would seem poised to continue his hot stretch. He's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts against Oakland (14-17) and has completed six innings in each of the last four.
He's been especially tough on Billy Butler (2 for 17), Josh Reddick (0 for 7) and Steven Vogt (0 for 6).
Reddick, though, went 7 for 9 in Saturday's doubleheader split and is a lifetime .377 hitter in Baltimore.
His 4-for-4 effort in Saturday's nightcap went for naught as the Orioles (17-12) scored four runs in the third - capped by Chris Davis' two-run homer - to back a stellar start from Ubaldo Jimenez in a 5-2 win.
"It's early in the season, but you're trying to win that second game because you don't want to go into (Sunday) trying to salvage one game of a three-game set," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Now you have a chance to win the series. It puts a whole different perspective on the long day that we spent here.
"If I had to win only one of the two, I'd want to win the second one."
Marcus Semien homered and drove in three runs, and the Athletics snapped a four-game skid with an 8-4 victory in the opener.
Offense has been hard to come by lately for Baltimore, which has totaled 15 runs and batted .216 in the last six games. That slump doesn't apply to Manny Machado, who is 8 for 23 in that span and hitting .420 at home this season.
Davis snapped an 0-for-16 drought with his seventh homer in the last 11 games against the A's.
Adam Jones is the only current Oriole to take Kendall Graveman deep, and that came in Baltimore's 18-2 win at Camden Yards on Aug. 16.
Since posting a 2.04 ERA through his first three starts, Graveman (1-3, 4.40) has been knocked around for 10 runs and 20 hits over 11 innings in losing his last two outings.
He matched his previous start with 10 hits allowed and yielded four runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 4-3 loss to Seattle on Monday.
The right-hander went 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts last season against the Orioles.
Oakland has posted a 6.47 ERA during a 1-6 stretch against Baltimore.