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Baltimore bullpen leading team in close victories

In 1981, the Baltimore Orioles set a major league record with a 21-7 record in games decided by one run. Now more than 30 years later, the 2012 Orioles have become a threat to break that record.

Baltimore owned a 22-6 mark in one-run games entering the weekend. The Orioles' .786 winning percentage in those games was the best in the majors.

No other team in baseball has won as many one-run games, or lost as few, as the Orioles have this season.

Although the 1981 and 1970 Orioles hold the two best one-run game records in baseball history, the teams of recent years have not had the same success. The Orioles last season were 22-22 in one-run games, and have managed a winning record in those games just once in the last five seasons.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked why he felt the team has done so well in close situations prior to Thursday's game against the Red Sox, and did not hesitate to thank his relievers.

"Bullpen's been a big part of it," Showalter said. "A lot of that is being able to hold on until you can push that run across."

Baltimore's 2.98 bullpen ERA entering the weekend was the second-best in the American League, third in the majors. In years past, the Orioles' bullpen has not exactly provided much relief.

The Orioles finished 27th and 24th respectively in bullpen ERA the past two seasons.

Baltimore has three pitchers in the top 20 reliever ERAs in baseball - Pedro Strop (1.20), Darren O'Day (2.45), and Troy Patton (2.58).

The bullpen also includes closer Jim Johnson, who was second in the majors with 35 saves and has blown just three opportunities this season.

Strop's 1.20 ERA is the second-highest among AL relief pitchers behind only Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney's 0.81. Strop also is in the top-10 in holds with 20.

O'Day became just the third Orioles relief pitcher ever to win at least six games without losing any, joining former Baltimore relievers Wes Stock and Grant Jackson.

Patton has been the lone left-hander in the bullpen most of the season, before he went on the disabled list earlier this week.

Left-handed hitters have hit just .206 against Patton. Right-handers haven't done much better, hitting .236 against Patton, the former starting pitcher.

The Orioles' relief pitchers have been a big reason why the team has won 12 consecutive extra-inning games, as well as a perfect 49-0 record when they have a lead at the end of the seventh inning.

Showalter said the success in close games this season isn't talked about within the team, but it's more of just a belief that they can win.

"It's not a topic of conversation in our clubhouse," Showalter said, "and it's not something they talk about in the dugout when we've got a one-run game where we're ahead, but I think it's sort of a state of mind more than anything. They don't dwell on it.

"I just think they live in the moment, they stay in the moment. And that's hard to do."

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