Orioles closer Zach Britton is so automatic that no one could figure out what was going on when he suddenly spun out of control in the ninth inning of Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
He came in with 20 consecutive successful save conversions, but after a one-out single by Devon Travis, he completely lost the strike zone. He walked pinch hitter Darwin Barney to put the tying run on base and then walked pinch hitter Russell Martin to load the bases for dangerous third baseman Josh Donaldson.
"It's a challenge," Britton said. "It doesn't happen too often, so when it does you've got three or four little things [to fix] and finish a little bit more. That's what happens. Today was tough. I was really just trying to make a quality pitch and get a ground ball and I didn't get anything close enough for them to really offer at.
"For the most part, if I can pound the zone with strikes early and get those guys swinging -- but once I started getting behind throwing pitches that were elevated, I knew they were going to make me throw some strikes and it was tough."
Fortunately for his team, he rediscovered his proper arm slot and release point just in time to coax Donaldson into a game-ending double play and record his American League-leading 21st save.
"I threw a breaking ball on the first pitch and then I got my hand position a little better and my release point was a little better after I messed with it," Britton said. "I threw a good sinker strike for a called strike, and I knew if I could just throw that and keep it down, hopefully he would hit it at somebody."