ANAHEIM, Calif. – When Orioles closer Zach Britton took a comebacker off the inside of his right elbow in the ninth inning of Monday's 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels, he made sure he got the out before giving in to the pain.
Facing pinch-hitter Erick Aybar to lead off the inning, Britton attempted to field a sharp grounder back to the mound. But the ball took a weird hop and hit Britton square on the arm of his glove hand.
Britton recovered, picked up the ball with his left hand and made an underhand toss to Chris Davis at first base for the out before immediately hunching over and shaking his right arm, which had gone numb.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, pitching coach Dave Wallace and head trainer Richie Bancells all rushed out of the visiting dugout to evaluate Britton, who remained in the game following a few warm-up pitches.
“I tell you, Zach got smoked,” Showalter said.
Britton said he had some stiffness in the arm Tuesday, but he tested the arm before the game and was expected to be available to pitch.
After he was hit Monday, Britton retired the next two hitters to record his 17th save in 20 chances this season. He has converted back-to-back save opportunities after allowing a walk-off, three-run home run to the Oakland Athletics’ Josh Donaldson on Friday night.
Even though his arm went numb — he said he didn’t regain full feeling until after the final out — Britton was determined to remain in the game.
“I was just trying to get some feeling back in my hand, so I could feel my glove on my hand,” Britton said. “That was really why we were kind of waiting. I wasn’t going to come out right there, especially with that. It wasn’t my throwing arm, you just kind of tough your way through it.”
“It got me right on the elbow, directly on the elbow. I’ve got a great ball mark, seams and everything, so it will be a nice little mark [Tuesday].”
Britton, who was born in Southern California and lives here in the offseason but grew up in Texas, also had his family in the stands.
“I met his dad today, and I said [to Britton], ‘What would your dad be thinking?’ ” Showalter said. “‘He’d want me to get my [butt] back on the mound and finish it up. I didn’t come all the way from Texas for you not to finish it.’ I was happy for him.”
Britton said his father likely would want to talk about why Britton didn’t field the comebacker cleanly.
“He’d probably say, ‘Meet me in the parking lot after the game. Let’s do some [fielding practice],’” Britton joked.
Britton only needed seven pitches to record the save, his second fewest pitches this season in a converted save opportunity.
The victory Monday was a nice rebound after Sunday’s humbling 10-2 loss in Oakland, the Orioles' second loss to the Athletics by eight runs or more this season. Taking the series opener against an Angels team that had a 34-16 record at home and went 14-3 in July prior to Monday night was a good way to start.
Despite striking out a season-high 15 times at the plate, the Orioles received all the offense they needed with a pair or two-run homers by center fielder Adam Jones off Angels rookie right-hander Matt Shoemaker.
Still, the Orioles bullpen had to do its job after right-hander Bud Norris held the Angels to two runs — one earned — in 6 2/3 innings. The Angels lead the major leagues with 30 comeback wins, including 13 coming back from a deficit of two or more runs.
As for Britton, he was confident that he would be ready, if needed, Tuesday for the second game of the series.
“Definitely,” Britton said. “We’ll put some compression on it, and it will be fine. It will probably feel sore when I wake up, but up here, you’ve got a ton of treatment that can get you ready for the game.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun