Zach Britton returned to the big leagues Saturday night, pitching the Orioles past the Detroit Tigers 3-2.
The lefty was in trouble early and often, but gave a sluggish offense seven shutout innings. He was aided by three double plays and one caught stealing, and one smooth swing of Chris Davis’ bat late in the game.
In the home half of the first, the Tigers mounted a one-out threat. Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera picked up back-to-back hits. After seeing the Tigers’ first baseman blast Detroit to a victory over the Orioles Friday, one could hardly blame Britton for walking Prince Fielder on four pitches next, even if it did load the bases. With just one out, Britton got exactly what he needed. On an 0-2 pitch, he got Jhonny Peralta to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning.
Delmon Young’s leadoff single in the Tigers’ second was followed up with another 6-4-3, this time from Alex Avila. Austin Jackson led off the third with a double. One out later, Britton (W, 2-1) intentionally walked Cabrera. Britton ran the count full to Fielder before striking him out. Next, Peralta lined out to Adam Jones in center, and another potentially big inning was averted.
While Britton was busy walking a thin line, his mound opponent, Rick Porcello (L, 9-8) was doing his own tap dance, albeit with a little less drama. He stranded Nick Markakis, who’d led off with a walk, in the first. Davis’s one-out single to left in the second netted no runs. Singles from Robert Andino and Markakis leading off the third went for naught, thanks in large part to Andino being gunned down trying to steal third.
By the fourth, both pitchers had settled down, Porcello even more so than Britton. The Tigers’ starter had retired eleven in a row, when the Orioles finally got to him in the seventh. Jones and Matt Wieters started the inning off with two straight hits. Davis stepped in, already 1-2 on the night. On an 0-2 pitch down and away, Davis went and put a beautiful, effortless-looking swing on it. He lifted a fly ball to deep left field, and as so many of his shots seem to do, it just kept going. Davis’ 19th home run gave the O’s a 3-0 lead late in the game, which, for the Orioles, usually means a win.
Pedro Strop entered in the eighth, pitching to a 1.18 ERA on the season. He’d been all but automatic on the season in bridging the gap between starter/middle inning reliever-to-closer Jim Johnson. But the Tigers set out to conquer that bridge. Austin Jackson led off with a hit to right on a 98 MPH, 0-2 fastball. One out later, Strop hit Cabrera with a pitch, putting runners at first and second, and bringing Prince Fielder to the plate with the potential tying run. Sound familiar?
But after launching the game’s tying—and winning—two run home runs Friday night, The Orioles were able to get the better of him Saturday. Strop got Fielder swinging on a nasty slider, for out number one. Up stepped Peralta, and again the Tigers had the tying run at the dish. Strop uncorked a wild pitch on 0-1, moving Jackson and Cabrera up to second and third. On the very next pitch, Peralta singled to right, plating both of them. Peralta, seeing Markakis throw toward the plate, broke for second. But Markakis’ throw perfectly hit cut-off man Mark Reynolds, and the O’s nailed Peralta in a rundown for the third out.
Jim Johnson came on in the ninth, setting the Tigers down in order for his 36th save, and evening the series in Detroit at a game each.
The three-game set wraps Sunday afternoon at 1:05. Detroit sends Doug Fister (7-7, 3.24) to the hill. The O’s counter with Wei-Yin Chen (11-7, 3.70).
- Britton made the big pitch when he had to, and that was the difference between Saturday’s start, and his past several.
- O’s pitchers handled Cabrera and Fielder. Combined, the Tigers’ 3-4 hitters went 2-4 with 1 run, 3 walks, 1 HBP, 2 strikeouts, and 4 left on base, 0 RBIs. Now, that’s not exactly stopping them in their tracks, but it sure beats Friday’s numbers for the pair: 4/6, 5R, 2BB, 1K, 0LOB, 3HR, 5RBI.
- Davis and Markakis each had multiple hit games.
- Strop faced three batters, allowed three to reach, and two to score.
- Andino being nailed trying to swipe third in the third was a bad play. Anytime a base runner is caught stealing third, it’s a bad play.