When things are going badly — as they have been for the Orioles in the first month of the season — every aspect of the team is affected. And for late-inning relievers trying to establish a rhythm, losing means fewer leads to hold and an irregular workload.

Even without closer Zach Britton, who is out until June 1 at the earliest recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, the back end of the bullpen is expected to be one of the Orioles' strengths, but typically dependable late-inning relievers Brad Brach, Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens all have struggled as the Orioles have sputtered to a 6-16 start heading into Monday night.


"We have a number of guys capable of doing well, but you want to try to keep them in the flow as much as possible," manager Buck Showalter said. "Sometimes, what happens is you're in situations that you really shouldn't be pitching in because you need to pitch. A guy can't sit around there seven or eight days and you can't figure out why he's looking sharp. It's not always velocity. Sometimes, you'll see the same velocity but different results or different finish in the zone or different breaking ball, not quite as quality."

In Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians, Brach entered in the ninth inning with the Orioles down by a run and allowed three runs, ending his seven-game scoreless streak. Brach — who allowed hits to four of the first six hitters he faced, including a two-run homer to José Ramírez and an RBI double by Yan Gomes — was working for just the third time over a two-week stretch.

"I think that's definitely part of it, just not having regular outings," Brach said. "And just the team struggling as a whole can make it difficult on the bullpen because I feel like the years we've been good and made the playoffs it was like, 'OK, we've got the lead and we've got the seventh, eighth and ninth.' You kind of feed off each other, and when things go bad, it's kind of the same thing."

Through the first 22 games of the season, Brach, O'Day and Givens had a combined ERA of 5.14 — compared with 2.86 in that same span last year when the Orioles were 14-8. They've also allowed four more base runners and two more home runs while pitching 6 2/3 fewer innings and making five fewer appearances.

"It's like that with all phases of the game, but if you're only seeing a few leads a week, then it puts more pressure on the bullpen for sure," O'Day said. "It's easier when you've won five out of six and you just go pitch and do my best. Winning helps every phase of the game. It helps guys feel comfortable in the box, playing defense, so we've just got to string together a few wins and get some momentum going."

Their missteps have been magnified because there haven't been many late-inning leads. When O'Day allowed a ninth-inning homer in a tie game April 10 against the Toronto Blue Jays, Showalter made sure he got O'Day into the game the next night so the sting wouldn't linger. In Thursday's series finale in Detroit, O'Day blew a two-run lead in the eighth by allowing a three-run homer to John Hicks in an outing that was his first action in seven days.

"We're creatures of habit," O'Day said. "After 162 games, you have to be a creature of habit. We're not going to use that as an excuse. You're just got to pitch well when they tell you to pitch. We're not rookies. We're guys who have been around the game, so we know what to expect. You've just got to pitch good when they tell you to pitch."

Having Britton, who opened the season with the team last year before going on the disabled list in mid-April, would help carry the load, and the same group of relievers is now used to a reorganization of roles that Britton's absence involves, but the opportunities to hold leads just haven't been there this season.

"I think it's one of those things, trying to get into a rhythm has been tough," Brach said. "I know I had three out of four in New York and then three out of 14 or 15. It's tough finding a rhythm this time of year, but I'm not using it as an excuse. I haven't been executing my pitches all year. I think I've been getting away with it. I've been giving up a bunch of hits and just kind of getting out of the innings."

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