With Darren O'Day shelved again, Orioles bullpen faces new challenges

The Orioles will find out more about the severity of setup man Darren O'Day's ailing shoulder this afternoon.

Their bullpen overcame O'Day's absence for seven weeks earlier this season, but losing him again for any extended period would hurt on many levels.


Right-hander Brad Brach picked up the slack for O'Day when he was out with a right hamstring strain, using the opportunity to pitch in more high-leverage innings and become an All-Star for the first time in his career.

But Brach has struggled in the second half, and Friday's 5-2 win over the San Francisco Giants was the latest example. Brach entered the game opening the ninth inning and quickly allowed a run on two singles and a wild pitch, forcing manager Buck Showalter to use closer Zach Britton to finish out the game.

Brach's recent struggles against left-handed batters continued, as both hits off him were against hitters batting from the left side (switch hitter Angel Pagan and left-handed hitter Brandon Belt).

Brach has said that he's struggled with the feel for his changeup, which was been his key to defending himself against left-handers, for about the past month. But on Friday, he almost exclusively relied on his four-seam fastball, and both hits came off 94-mph fastballs.

Having said that, it was good for the Orioles to see Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart combine to retire all seven hitters they faced. This series is a test for both, especially given how many left-handed hitters the Giants have.

For Givens, this is a chance to show he can get lefties out, and his strikeout of left-handed-hitting Brandon Crawford to open the seventh was a big one.

Hart, meanwhile, who was called up before Friday's game to bolster the left-handed situational relief, retired four straight left-handed hitters.

And then there's Britton, who keeps racking up accolades. With his scoreless ninth Thursday, Britton recorded his 39th straight relief appearance without allowing an earned run, passing the previous record set by then-Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in 2011 and Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil (Maryland) in 2015 and '16.

Britton extended that streak with a scoreless ninth Friday. He hasn't allowed an earned run since May 5 — the three unearned runs he allowed June 21 against the San Diego Padres are the only runs he's allowed in that span — in a streak that spans 39 innings pitched.