"If you have guys who can get outs from the seventh through the ninth [inning] you can win games," said reliever Brad Brach on the importance of a good bullpen. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
In the Orioles' three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the club's first series sweep of the year, one area of the team really stood out. Maybe you've heard this one before:
The bullpen was outstanding. In the three-game series, the unit allowed just one run in 12 innings, improving its ERA to 3.12 for the season, fourth best in the American League.
Last year, the Orioles had the AL's third-best bullpen, with a 3.10 ERA. After a rough start this year, they are seemingly back to where they were in 2014.
"I was kind of having that feeling this series, and I hope we can continue" it, right-hander Brad Brach said of the Orioles' resurgent bullpen. "It just seems that the excitement is starting to get there, everybody is starting to find their little niche, and hopefully, we can keep rolling."
The bullpen's recent dominance has been led by second-year closer Zach Britton, who hasn't allowed a run over his past 11 outings and picked up his 17th save in the Orioles' 6-5 win Thursday night. It was his 13th straight.
But after the game, Britton credited the most unheralded member of the bullpen, right-hander Chaz Roe, who has allowed just two runs in 13 innings — including a solo homer to David Ortiz on Thursday — since his call-up May 24.
“We knew we had the talent to do it. I think in the beginning of the year, we got off a little inconsistent. But when you are that talented, it’s about time. It’s just a matter of time when the guys all come together,” Britton said. “It takes one guy, and we all kind of follow the lead. A guy like Chaz coming up and doing well, and Tommy [Hunter] is throwing the ball well, Darren (O’Day) is throwing the ball well, Brad’s throwing the ball well — and so everyone feeds off it. Everyone wants to go out there and kind of continue the rhythm we’ve got going.”
This run has been particularly impressive because the bullpen is short one reliever with left-hander Brian Matusz suspended for eight games. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the remaining six relievers have risen to the challenge.
"They kind of rally around it," Showalter said. "Not that there's a safety net. It was going to be a need. They saw it coming. They knew. They're trying to pick up Brian and pick up the team."
Matusz will return Sunday. Theoretically, the bullpen should be even stronger then. And that will be a key for the Orioles (29-30) if they expect to rise in the AL East like they did last year.
"When your bullpen is shutdown, you are going to win games. It is pretty evident in baseball," Brach said. "It's the way it goes. If you have guys that can get outs from the seventh to the ninth, you're gonna win a lot of games."