When the Orioles were in danger of losing control of Saturday night’s game against the defending World Series champs on the road -- with the bases loaded and one out and the tying run coming to the plate -- manager Buck Showalter turned to right-handed reliever Mychal Givens.
There was no room for error for Givens, not with Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who hit a two-run homer earlier in the game, bearing down at the plate with the bases full.
It was a defining moment for a reliever with less than 40 big league innings under his belt, but Givens game through, preserving the Orioles’ 8-3 victory by striking out Perez and second baseman Omar Infante to strand the bases loaded.
Givens struck out both hitters with his devastating slider, a pitch that comes from an unconventional low arm angle and sweeps across the plate. Perez ended his eight-pitch at-bat flailing at the pitch and Infante swung through a full-count slider over the inner half of the plate.
Combine Givens’ ability to throw his slider in the zone, his mid-90s fastball and his lower arm slot and Givens can keep hitters guessing. On Saturday night, he worked ahead of both hitters by establishing the slider early.
Givens got ahead of Perez 1-2 with three straight sliders, including a first-pitch called strike and a swinging strike on his third pitch of the at-bat. After Perez fouled off three of the next four pitches, seeing three straight fastballs, Givens finished him off with sliders.
He got ahead of Infante 0-2 with a pair of sliders, a first-pitch called strike and a foul ball. Infante then had to protect and he was able to work the count full before striking out on the last of seven consecutive sliders.
“One of the things is because the fastball is so good guys have to cheat to get there and they become more susceptible to the breaking ball,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
After retiring all four batters he faced on Saturday, Givens has recorded seven straight scoreless outings -- yielding just four hits over seven innings with 13 strikeouts and four walks -- after allowing three runs in his first two outings.
“He’s gotten lazy with a couple [sliders] earlier in the season and got burned for them when he just flipped them over,” Showalter said. “He can by with that in Bowie, you can’t get by with that here. And he knows that. He needs to throw a quality slider and not say well they’re not looking for this, I’ll just flip it in there.”