'Ridiculous' Britton boosting short-handed 'pen

Left-handed closer gets five outs for AL-leading 20th save

'Ridiculous' Britton boosting short-handed 'pen

BOSTON -- After the Orioles' bullpen faltered twice in Toronto, manager Buck Showalter wasn't taking any chances. Showalter called on closer Zach Britton to record the five-out save in Tuesday's 3-2 series-opening win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, improving the lefty to a perfect 20-for-20 in save situations.

"It's incredible watching that guy pitch," said Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who went seven innings and watched Britton put the finishing touches on the win. "I'm not just saying that because he's my teammate. He's got some of the best stuff I think I've seen in baseball. His sinker, it's ridiculous. I don't know how anyone can put a good swing on it. He takes a lot of pride in it and it's fun to watch."

Britton, who leads the American League in saves, is seven shy of 100 for his career, and has been a huge part of first-place Baltimore's success. Without setup man Darren O'Day (hamstring) and with long man Vance Worley being placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, Britton's presence keeps the back of the bullpen formidable.

"I try not to think about it too much," said Britton, who sports a 0.96 ERA. "I think when I get out on the mound, I'm trying to make quality pitches and trying to help us win. I think that's the most important thing. The numbers normally take care of themselves when you go out there and you execute pitches, and that's really my only mindset right now."

Britton entered for righty Mychal Givens with one out and runners on the corners in the eighth. He struck out David Ortiz and, after Hanley Ramirez's RBI single, got Jackie Bradley Jr. to ground out to quash the threat.

Tuesday was just the second time this season Britton has come on for five outs, but it could be something that Showalter opts to do more.

"If you all watch how we do it, when he's got multiple days off like that, we'll do it," Showalter said. "I knew Mike was only going to get three hitters there. I'm trying to stay away from using Brad [Brach] and Mychal on the same night, because it puts us in harm's way the next day. It's made it tougher [without O'Day]."

"The big thing for me is pitch count," Britton said. "It's not ups and downs. It's really not consecutive days for the most part.

"That's why when I come in the game I want to get a ground ball right away and get that first out in the inning. Strikeouts are great when I need them, but for the most part I want early contact and get out of the inning with few pitches and few strikeouts, I can go multiple innings on consecutive days."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.