There have been multiple instances when manager Buck Showalter preserved his late-inning relievers for situations when the Orioles go into the final frames with a lead. But he certainly didn't anticipate – and definitely didn't want – to use right-hander Mychal Givens in the sixth inning of the Orioles' eventual 15-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
After watching relievers Alec Asher and Richard Bleier fail to get the final out of the inning four batters after removing starter Wade Miley – watching a nine-run lead morph into a situation where the tying run was in the on-deck circle – Showalter turned to Givens with the bases loaded to escape the sixth without further damage.
Givens restored calm, striking out Eric Fryer on three pitches to begin a stint of 2 1/3 scoreless innings that matched his major league career high. Givens retired seven of the eight hitters he faced, striking out three.
It wasn't exactly how Showalter would've wanted to use his bullpen Saturday.
"No, but we won," Showalter said. "We scored more runs than they did. … I was hoping we could get Ash there, but you could tell the momentum of that game was starting to change. Mychal was probably the key to the game today.
"That was a big momentum change. You never feel like there's enough on day games here, especially the way the ball's jumping. How many home runs today, seven? Eight? You're just hoping there's not walks and there's not errors so that you don't have that issue."
Givens' 42 pitches Saturday were the most he has thrown in 118 appearances as a major leaguer and 10 shy of his career high as a professional. He threw 52 pitches in 2 2/3 innings on Aug. 27, 2014 at Double-A Bowie.
"Just go out there and try to shut down the inning and hopefully it gives us time to cover that bullpen, just trying to pound the zone and get outs," Givens said. "I'm prepared for any situation. … Being up here and learning the bullpen role, [you're] prepared to get in in any situation to get into the game."
Showalter stuck with Givens in the eighth – he had only thrown 20 pitches to get through his first 1 1/3 innings of relief – and the Cardinals made him work. Dexter Fowler reached on one-out single, but the Cardinals also fouled off six pitches in the inning to elevate Givens' pitch count.
"He had two days off," Showalter said. "He only had 20 pitches, the third started, he threw 20-something that inning. He got a lot of foul balls. That was the last hitter he was going to face. I was going to have to bring Brad [Brach] in there because that's what he had available. I'd rather not, but we're also trying to win a game and live to fight another day."
Showalter wasn't as hesitant to give Brach the ninth inning, especially since he threw just three pitches in his previous appearance Wednesday in Chicago and had thrown just 1 1/3 innings in the nine days before Saturday. Brach retired the side in order in the ninth.
But before then, it was the critical outs provided by Givens that stalled a mounting rally.
"We're trying to win the game," Showalter said. "The ball was flying out of here today. That was another issue we had going."