Just when you thought there was no more magic in the Oriole bats, Mark Reynolds delivers an RBI single to left center field in the top of the 11thinning at Yankee Stadium against the Bronx Bombers this afternoon, which ultimately proved to be the game-winning hit.
But, the real story today was their dominant bullpen. The Birds used seven relief pitchers to toss six scoreless innings, just long enough for the Orioles’ hitters to wake up and deliver an RBI single after last night/this morning’s rain-lengthened game (which ended a little after 2 AM).
Rookie sensation Zach Britton, who failed to record two outs in his last start in New York, began the game for the Birds and tossed five innings in his fourth start since his return from the disabled list. He yielded four earned runs, scattered five base hits on 85 pitches and yielded two walks coupled with two strike outs.
Over his last three appearances though, Britton sported a 1.50 ERA as he tossed 18 innings, surrendered only three earned runs on 14 base hits and picked up three wins over that stretch. Although he wasn’t as sharp this afternoon, he kept the Birds in the game and greatly improved since his last start in the Big Apple.
Brad Bergesen relieved Britton in the 6th inning and recorded the first two outs before giving way to recent call up Zach Phillips. The 24-year-old rookie Phillips struck out Robinson Cano on three pitches, and began the 7th by serving up a double to Curtis Granderson.
Left-hander Willie Eyre entered the game with a runner on second base and no one down. After an Eduardo Nunez sacrifice that moved Granderson to third with one down, Eyre was able to strike out Russell Martin and induce a ground ball from Nick Swisher to end the frame.
The sometimes-shaky closer Kevin Gregg took the hill in the eighth inning, but uncharacteristically, he made quick work of the Bombers as he retired them in order. He came out to start the ninth, but served up a single to Mark Teixeira and was then lifted for left-specialist Clay Rapada.
Rapada made it look easy against the Yankees as he struck out Cano for a second time in the game. He then induced a foul pop up to the always-dangerous Granderson, and finished the frame with a fielder’s choice.
Rookie and recently called up Pedro Strop relieved Rapada in the 10th inning, and after a leadoff single, Strop stepped his game up. Swisher grounded into a fielder’s choice, Alex Rodriguez struck out swinging and Brett Gardner grounded out to second to retire the side.
The most reliable member of the bullpen, set up man Jim Johnson, was called upon to close out the game since Gregg pitched the eighth inning. Johnson issued a walk to Jesus Montero to lead off the bottom of the eleventh inning, and eventually he surrendered a two out single that sent Montero to third base with two down. But, Johnson was able to buckle down with the game on the line and induce a game-ending fielder’s choice to Robert Andino at shortstop (on a very nice stop and close play at second base).
So, overall, the Birds’ bullpen tossed six scoreless innings, allowed only four base hits, and never more than one in an inning, struck out six and walked only two Yankees. This is a very encouraging outing for Showalter and the fans, not just because their regular pen members pitched well, but because two of their call ups got to show what they can do at Yankee Stadium.
Although the Birds’ pen shined today against the Bombers, over their last seven games, they’ve struggled to string together consistent performances in relief. The relief core sports a 5.68 ERA over the last week as they’ve allowed 14 earned runs on 23 base hits in just 22.2 innings.
Bergesen has struggled the most over the last seven games as he’s tossed only three innings and surrendered four earned runs (12.00 ERA) in two outings. Eyre, who pitched a superb inning tonight, allowed three two earned runs in just 3.1 innings (5.40 ERA).
Chris Jakubauskas, who has really found his own in the pen since leaving the rotation, had a tough week. He appeared in two contests and gave up three earned runs over just 1.2 innings (16.20 ERA).
So far for the Birds though, their September call ups have performed very well and better than some of the regular pen members. Since his debut, Phillips has tossed 2.1 shutout innings in his three appearances and he’s only served up three base hits. Strop has tossed 3.1 innings, recorded four strike outs and has yet to allow an earned run.
Over the Birds’ last seven games, they’ve dropped six of them, due mostly in part to their pitching staff, both their rotation and their pen. Their team ERA is 7.17 and they’ve yielded 53 earned runs over just 59 innings.
The Orioles’ staff gave up at least five runs in all of the losses, and four times they surrendered eight or more runs. Over that stretch, the hurlers allowed 13 runs to the Jays and 11 runs against the Yankees. The Birds snapped a four-game losing streak today after they lost the last two games in Tampa and the first two against the Bombers.
So, even though the Birds’ bullpen has really struggled and underperformed over the last week or so, at least we can take something encouraging and exciting out of this tough stretch. The pitchers who have been called up to show off their talents this September have really pitched well and gained some national attention.
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Topics: American League, Baltimore Orioles, Brett Gardner, Buck Showalter, Chris Jakubauskas, Clay Rapada, Curtis Granderson, Eduardo Nunez, Jesus Montero, Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Mark Reynolds, MLB, Nick Swisher, Pedro Strop, Robert Andino, Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, Zach Britton, Zach Phillips