xml:space="preserve">

BOSTON -- One of the most impressive things about Zach Britton's handling of the closer's role this season is that hasn't had an extended stretch of trouble.

When he has blown a save opportunity — he has converted 34 of 38 chances since taking over the job in May from Tommy Hunter — he has converted his next chance.

Advertisement

That happened this week, when Britton was charged with a blown save Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field when the first batter he faced reached on an error by Ryan Flaherty and later scored on a groundout to tie the game. It was one of those no-fault blown saves for a closer — and the Orioles ultimately won anyway in 11 innings.

"In Tampa, he pitches a great inning, gives up a run. He wasn't happy about it, but he knew he had done all he could do," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's been very mature about it."

On Tuesday night, Britton entered in the ninth at Fenway Park with a three-run lead and pitched a scoreless inning for the save — again avoiding two consecutive missteps.

"I think that's really shown the graduation, how he has handled [things] when he has had some failure, which hasn't been very much," Showalter said. "He's bounced right back."

Britton, 26, never had a save in his eight previous seasons as a professional pitcher — he almost exclusively was a starter in that span. But he made this year's club as a reliever, pitched tremendously in a setup role and now ranks fourth in the American League in saves despite not picking up his first until May 15.

"It's crazy. It's funny how things work, baseball works. You go from one year unsure about how your career is going to unfold with some injuries and not feeling like I was 100 percent to having a good offseason and coming back and just regaining confidence," Britton said. "To be in a position where I'm closing games out for these guys, it's special, something I didn't expect going into this year. And if someone would have told me, I would have laughed it off as a joke."

His performance has been no laughing matter for the Orioles. Britton likely will receive plenty of votes from the local media when it chooses the Most Valuable Oriole later this month. Outfielder Nelson Cruz is the favorite to win, but Britton will be in the discussion.

"Zach, he's been solid. I mean, you couldn't ask for much more from a guy in that role than Zach's giving us," Showalter said. "It's kind of really the last piece of that bullpen … having somebody that you can count on there at the end."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement