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Sunday's blemish for Darren O'Day doesn't detract from game's best relief corps

Other than the loss he had to wear, and the inevitable fine for his comments about umpire Mark Wegner's decision to not call a third strikeout for him in Sunday's eighth inning, Orioles reliever Darren O'Day seemed equally dismayed about what the 6-5 loss meant for the team and the bullpen he leads.

The check-swing, non-strike to Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez, and the ensuing back-to-back home runs by Martinez and first baseman Miguel Cabrera, took away what appeared to be another lockdown appearance from what's been the best bullpen in baseball so far this year.

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Even with the two runs charged to O'Day, the Orioles still have the best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.32. O'Day has been a big part of that, with a 3.00 ERA despite those home runs. But four strong innings Sunday would have been icing on a strong stretch for that bunch.

Sunday's began with Mychal Givens, who struck out three in two shutout innings to bring his own ERA to 2.25. He gave up runs in his first two outings, and has allowed just one earned run since. He's a strikeout machine against right-handers, helping him to 25 strikeouts in 16 innings to lead all Orioles relievers.

Second on that list is Brad Brach, who along with Givens has established himself as one of manager Buck Showalter's go-to relievers in the sixth and seventh inning. On Saturday, he allowed a run for just the third time in 16 appearances, but recorded the save and enters Monday's day off with a 1.35 ERA.

Dylan Bundy retired all four batters he faced after O'Day was chased, including two via strikeout, to lower his ERA to 2.03. He hasn't been used as frequently as the previous three mentioned, nor has left-hander Brian Matusz, who has an 8.31 ERA and a 2.77 WHIP in 4 1/3 innings as he looks to regain his form from a season ago after a back injury in the spring.

And then there are the specialists. Long reliever Vance Worley hasn't been charged with an earned run in six relief appearances, though he's allowed four inherited runners to score. Closer Zach Britton is as good as he's ever been, despite his ankle sprain limiting him earlier this month. He has 10 saves and a 1.76 ERA in 16 appearances

All of that adds up to the best statistical bullpen in baseball, at least by ERA. By WHIP, their 1.20 mark is 12th in the league, but they're tied for second-fewest home runs allowed (seven), and all three of Givens, Brach and O'Day are in the top 20 in the league in strikeouts.

Many of these marks would be better had O'Day been given that third strikeout, and Britton cleaned up in the ninth the way Bundy ultimately did. O'Day knew that himself.

"Games like that, assume Zach does what he normally does in the ninth inning. That's a win and a series sweep against a really good team," O'Day said.

It would have meant avoiding a rare blemish on a strong bullpen, too.

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