We’ve talked about the Orioles’ bullpen plenty this year.
So indulge me as I do it again.
Sunday afternoon, the Orioles received their fifth consecutive quality start thanks to six shutout innings from Zach Britton.
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The game was turned over to the Orioles' bullpen, which has been one of the best in baseball all year.
Luis Ayala, who is not accustomed to pitching more than two innings, looked great in the seventh and eighth, retiring all six batters he faced on 21 pitches.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter went to Ayala again in the ninth. He was trying to save the rest of the bullpen, including lefty Troy Patton, and Ayala was cruising.
But Ayala admittedly tired in the ninth and served up a two-run homer. Closer Jim Johnson gave up another run before eventually getting a key strikeout to pick up his major-league leading 30th save.
“It wasn’t really the way we drew it up, but it seemed to work out,” Johnson said. “We got the win so it doesn’t really matter.”
Johnson is now just the 12th Oriole to save 30 games in one season. And, with 67 more games, he conceivably could threaten Randy Myers’ franchise record of 45 saves in 1997.
But this bullpen isn’t just Johnson. The club is 38-0 in games that they are leading after seven. That’s about as shutdown as it can get.
Ayala, for one, thinks it is the camaraderie and versatility these guys have. It doesn’t hurt that manager Buck Showalter has used them so well, either.
“We have some great bullpen guys and everybody is happy,” Ayala said. “Our guys are pretty tight and we can do whatever, one out, one inning, two innings. Everybody is going to be ready for that.”
Of course, the other key is that the starters need to pitch into the sixth and seventh consistently. When they do that, this Orioles’ bullpen is excellent. When they don’t, it’s tired and not as effective.
A pretty simple equation, really.