Zach Britton has worn a jersey with the name “Orioles” across the chest for four years now. The past three years, Britton has seen action from the mound as a starter. However, this year he has taken up a new role with the Orioles as a middle reliever. Changing a pitcher’s role from starter to reliever could be a risky move for a manager to make. However, Buck Showalter has shown tremendous faith in the left-hander and his faith has been renewed this season after each game Britton has played in.
Currently, Britton has played in six games during the 2014 season. In those games, he has pitched a cumulative 11.1 innings. Looking at his numbers, no critics can argue with the results.
- 0.00 ERA
- 2-0 record
- Allowing only four hits and four walks in 40 batters faced
- Seven strikeouts
- .111 opponent batting average
In his last outing, Britton had to come in during the beginning of the sixth inning against the Rays as Miguel Gonzalez‘s pitch count got up earlier than expected. He wasted little time in decimating Tampa Bay’s bats, sitting down the their batters one, two, three. The following inning was not so easy.
In the seventh inning, a walk and two consecutive singles loaded the bases with just one out. The Rays thought they had Britton “on the ropes.” Yet, Britton showed his mental toughness with the next two batters. By keeping the ball down and in, he jammed Ben Zobrist and forced a ground ball to the Orioles third baseman, Ryan Flaherty. Flaherty then threw the ball back to home in order to get the runner out at the plate. Last year’s American League Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers, then stepped up to the plate in order to try to knock in at least a run to cut into the Orioles’ 3-0 lead. It would be to no avail as Britton struck him out swinging with a 95 mile per hour fastball low and away.
After three straight ground outs in the eighth inning, Britton set up the Orioles’ closer, Tommy Hunter, for a “doable” close situation. Hunter got the close and the Orioles picked up their first series sweep of the season.
It was Britton’s efforts in the seventh inning that really caught my eye. A reliever in baseball is supposed to come in when the starter is struggling, usually in the middle of the inning when the opponent is threatening to score, and get out of any jam that he is faced with. That is exactly what Britton did. He did not waiver. He did not subdue to the pressure of the situation. He flat-out performed.
If Britton can keep dazzling Orioles fans and, consequently, disparage opponents with performances like the one Baltimore saw yesterday, then he could very well be one of the most effective relievers in all of baseball this year.