Brad Brach has struggled this season, but with Darren O'Day on the disabled list, he will have to pick up the slack for a bullpen that's had its share of adversity.
Brach received his first save opportunity since a successful conversion April 11, and despite some late drama, sealed a scoreless ninth inning to close out a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night, ending the Orioles' seven-game losing streak.
"It shows a lot of confidence and that's always great to have from your manager," Brach said. "I'd like to think over the last four years that I'm capable of doing it, but like I said, I'm just really glad he's giving me the chance and I just want to secure the win for the team whenever I get the chance."
Brach entered Wednesday having allowed runs in four of his past six outings, posting a 9.53 ERA over that stretch. The previous time he entered a game in the ninth, he gave up a walk-off run in a 3-2 loss in Anaheim on May 1.
Save opportunities have been rare for the Orioles because they've had few late leads, and O'Day had recorded the team's two most recent saves. But with O'Day on the DL with a hyperextended right elbow, Brach would receive more late-inning opportunities, and that began Wednesday.
"Honestly, I don't know," Brach said when asked whether he thought he'd receive a save opportunity Wednesday. "We haven't really had too many opportunities, unfortunately. I'm just ready to go from the fifth to the ninth. I've said this in years past, but it's really the case now. I'm just trying to find myself and just get out there whenever he calls me and tonight it just happened to be the ninth. I'm just glad to be able to lock down the win for the team."
Brach's outing came after left-hander Richard Bleier bridged Andrew Cashner's six-inning start with a scoreless seventh and eighth.
And on Wednesday, he opened the ninth by walking Whit Merrifield before Jonathan Schoop dropped a throw at second base in what could have been a 5-4-3 double play. Merrifield was initially called out, but then ruled safe after a replay challenge.
"Obviously, the leadoff walk is not what you're trying to do there, especially with a two-run lead, and then I got the ground ball," Brach said. "They probably make that play 99 out of 100 times. It's just one of those things. I just want to pick up the infielders. It's a good one to move going forward. I got that final strike that I talked about all year. It was good to get that and secure the win."
After that, Brach bore down, inducing a lazy lineout to shortstop off the bat of Alcides Escobar on a 94-mph fastball.
Brach then struck out Ryan Goins on three pitches, starting him with a pair of splitters before getting him to swing through a high 94.6-mph fastball.
After a double steal, he then sealed the win with a six-pitch strikeout of Jon Jay, getting him to swing through a splitter then a two-seamer before blowing a 95-mph fastball past him for a swinging strikeout.
"I had a little extra life on the fastball," Brach said. "I've had that for the last two or three outings and the first outing in Oakland I started to feel something there the last three or four batters. My mechanics were finally starting to link up and sync up and, yeah, I just had a little extra life. And I knew that Jay, it looked like he was trying to go for the hole there, so I figured if I threw something up a little bit harder, he's going to swing through it and luckily he did."
It definitely appears that Brach — who has a 5.02 ERA this season — is getting his swing-and-miss stuff back. Over his past two outings, Brach has recorded four of his six outs by swinging strikeout in a pair of scoreless outings.
"Hopefully, Darren has a short stint here, but we know as a bullpen we need to start pitching better as a whole and tonight was a step in the right direction," Brach said. "It was just exciting to see. Bleier's having a great year and for him to go out there and get those six outs and get the ball to me tonight and I was able to finish the job, it's a step in the right direction and hopefully we can continue it."