Brit­ton shakier, still stel­lar

Crich­ton sent down to make room for Asher

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

TORONTO — is 5-for-5 on save op­por­tu­ni­ties this sea­son and con­tin­ues his climb up the all-time con­sec­u­tive saves list, but the Ori­oles closer hasn’t been as dom­i­nant as he was dur­ing his record-set­ting 2016 sea­son.

Brit­ton con­verted save chances on back-to-back nights to start the se­ries in Toronto, clos­ing the game with the win­ning run on sec­ond base Thurs­day night and he struck out the po­ten­tial win­ning run at the plate Fri­day night.

“I just want ev­ery­body to know, you’re see­ing his­toric pitch­ing by him,” Ori­oles man­ager

said. “It’s hard to do. Just keep in mind, he’s get­ting ev­ery­body’s best shot. When hit­ters are able to go up there with house money, they have noth­ing to lose. Ev­ery­body ex­pects them to fail, and to con­tinue to get three outs be­fore they score the amount of runs that have to, it’s not easy.”

Brit­ton has al­lowed 13 base run­ners over seven re­lief in­nings this sea­son, and has placed mul­ti­ple run­ners on base in four of his six out­ings.

On Fri­day, he al­lowed his first run since Aug. 24, end­ing a streak of 19 score­less out­ings.

“It kind of hits you,” Showal­ter said. “Ev­ery­body in that club­house knows how hard it is to do what he’s done, so it’s pretty hard to match at any level. I don’t think any­body in our game’s go­ing to match what he did last year and con­tin­ues to do this year.”

A mea­sure of how dom­i­nant Brit­ton has been is the fact that the earned run he al­lowed Fri­day was just his sec­ond since April 30. Brit­ton pitched 411⁄3 in­nings over 43 ap­pear­ances with­out an earned run be­fore al­low­ing one Aug. 24.

“He’s set a stan­dard that I don’t think you’ll see in your life­time,” Showal­ter said. “It just won’t hap­pen. I tend to try to en­joy it and watch it and re­al­ize how lucky I and we are to have a seat to watch it in­stead of try­ing to cri­tique it ev­ery night. It’s hard to do. If the fans and peo­ple think they have higher ex­pec­ta­tions of him, they’re not higher than Zach Brit­ton. I can tell you that.”

This sea­son, op­po­nents are get­ting to Brit­ton more of­ten, bat­ting .385 against his heavy sink­ing fast­ball af­ter hit­ting just .157 against the pitch last sea­son.

Brit­ton’s save Fri­day gave him 54 straight con­verted op­por­tu­ni­ties, which ties him for sec­ond place on the all-time con­sec­u­tive saves list with

record of 84 con­sec­u­tive saves is still in the dis­tance, but Showal­ter made it clear Saturday that he be­lieves Gagne’s mark shouldn’t count.

Since re­tir­ing, Gagne has ad­mit­ted to us­ing hu­man growth hor­mone dur­ing his ca­reer.

“Gagne doesn’t count,” Showal­ter said. “So [re­ally] Zach is tied for first, OK? Re­ally, that doesn’t have an as­ter­isk next to it?” Crich­ton’s brief stay car­ries im­por­tance: The Ori­oles op­tioned right-han­der

on Saturday morn­ing to call up right-han­der from Triple-A Nor­folk to start Saturday af­ter­noon’s game.

Crich­ton was in the Ori­oles bullpen the pre­vi­ous two nights, but didn’t en­ter a game. He was warm­ing be­fore the ninth in­ning in Fri­day’s 6-4 win, but Brit­ton pitched the ninth be­cause it was a save sit­u­a­tion.

“He got a nice blood flow down there a cou­ple times,” Showal­ter said. “That was good. I asked [bullpen coach] ‘How’d it go down there?’ And he said he was fine. He seemed like he’ll be a guy who is in con­trol of his emo­tions. I wanted to get him in a game. Came close a cou­ple times.”

Showal­ter said he wants to keep Crich­ton pitch­ing, but added that he might be back with the big league club sooner than he thinks. Gen­try finds way to con­trib­ute: One of the main rea­sons the Ori­oles placed out­fielder

on their Open­ing Day ros­ter was that he added baserun­ning speed the club didn’t have last sea­son.

But Gen­try hadn’t been able to use that abil­ity un­til the ninth in­ning of Saturday’s 2-1 loss be­cause he had yet to get on base, open­ing the sea­son hit­less in 12 plate ap­pear­ances.

But Gen­try was a fac­tor Saturday by scor­ing the ty­ing run on a sac­ri­fice fly af­ter steal­ing a base and mov­ing up on a fly­out.

The Ori­oles aren’t known for man­u­fac­tur­ing runs, but they also haven’t had a base-run­ning weapon like Gen­try.

“That’s the first time,” Showal­ter said. “I was talk­ing to him a day or two ago be­cause I know he hasn’t had the op­por­tu­nity to show what he can bring and to­day was a good ex­am­ple of the way he can im­pact a game, es­pe­cially if you’ve got the guts to run there.” Around the horn:

re­ceived his first start of the sea­son Saturday, go­ing 0-for-3 while fill­ing in for short­stop

whom Showal­ter wanted to give a day off this se­ries to en­sure that he didn’t play all four games on the Rogers Centre turf. … Showal­ter said he is con­sid­er­ing giv­ing a day off from first base to­day and al­low­ing him to be the des­ig­nated hit­ter, also with the turf in mind . ... Play­ers on both teams all wore No. 42 on Saturday for Jackie Robin­son Day. The orange jer­seys the Ori­oles wore Saturday will be auc­tioned on through Saturday.

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