Zach Britton delivered what the Orioles needed last night, providing them with a solid pitching performance during a challenging road trip when three-fifths of their starting rotation is unavailable for myriad reasons.
With Jason Hammel still recovering from a stomach virus, Britton got the start against one of baseball’s most dangerous lineups. He didn't make it out of the sixth inning, but he allowed a single run over 5 1/3 innings.
Getting the victory over Detroit Tigers ace and 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander was a nice bonus.
Britton took advantage of an opportunity to make an impression on Buck Showalter and the Orioles after a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk, something Jake Arrieta didn’t do two nights ago.
Like Arrieta, Britton disappointed in his last appearance for the Orioles. He made a spot start against the Seattle Mariners on April 29, but was sent back to the minors after allowing six runs over six innings in a loss. But unlike Arrieta, who was “lucky” to allow just five runs Monday, Britton had been pitching well for the Tides, going 2-1 with a 2.03 ERA in his past five starts.
Britton allowed five hits and walked three batters last night, but besides the solo shot he coughed up to Matt Tuiasosopo in the fifth inning, Britton didn't allow a runner to get beyond second base. A few batters after Tuiasosopo's homer, the Tigers had Miguel Cabrera at the plate with runners on first and second, but Britton got Cabrera to ground out to end the inning.
Showalter said afterward that Britton did “a nice job,” though he pointed out that Britton could have done deeper in the game.
He also refrained from saying Britton would get another start.
Britton deserves one, though. He struggled in his last Orioles start and had to wait a month and a half to atone for it. Surely they can find another start for one of their former top prospects.
Miguel Gonzalez will be back from paternity leave soon and Wei-Yin Chen appears to be close to returning from his oblique injury, so the top of the rotation could soon be stabilized. But there still is room for improvement in the back end of it.
Freddy Garcia has been up and down in his nine starts, and the 37-year-old labored against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. And Kevin Gausman is back to being a highly touted prospect in the minors after getting five starts with the big league club.
Showalter said Britton will be an option to get another start. It's a fluid situation, though, with three starters currently in flux.
But Britton came through for the Orioles in a tough spot last night. Why not see if the 25-year-old left-hander can build on it?