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Richard Bleier, Orioles bullpen handle big burden in series win over Yankees

Orioles manager Buck Showalter squeezed every pitch out of his patchwork bullpen as he could over four games and 43 innings in New York, and was rewarded with three victories after his bullpen pitched 11 1/3 innings and allowed just two runs in Sunday's 8-7, 12-inning win over the Yankees.

"Two short outings and the extra inning games really challenged, and guys responded," Showalter said. "You can only do it if everybody does their job and you spread the load around and keep up with it."

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After Mike Wright Jr. recorded just two outs Sunday, the Orioles finished the series with 17 innings from their starters. That meant 26 innings of relief over four days.

The bullpen responded by allowing seven runs on 18 hits, with three of those runs coming after Saturday's game was out of reach. The starring reliever both Sunday and throughout the series was left-hander Richard Bleier, who pitched three days in a row and earned the win with three shutout innings in the finale.

Craig Gentry won an 11-pitch at-bat to drive in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning, and Brad Brach escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the bottom half for his second save of the season.

"Richard, because of his pitch count and the way he pitches, it's not high-effort," Showalter said. "Richard got a little, actually, better as it went on. I was telling [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell], 'You know, he kind of looks like a starter out there.' It was fun. He had a lot of fun with it."

"I told Buck I had nine years in the minor leagues, so I had nine years off," Bleier said. "I'll pitch every day the rest of the year. I really don't care. As long as I'm in the big leagues, I'm available."

Showalter will hope he won't have to take him up on that, but he used all but two pitches in his eight-man bullpen to get Sunday's victory. Rule 5 draft pick Pedro Araujo backed up two shutout innings in Friday's 14-inning win by stemming the damage in the first inning and striking out five in 2 1/3 innings of relief.

"I think he kind of made everybody think, 'OK, we might just have a chance to hold them there,' " Showalter said.

Orioles right-hander Mike Wright Jr. has bounced back from plenty of struggles as he looks to solidify himself as a major league starter. Sunday's nightmare against the Yankees might be one bridge too far.

Miguel Castro allowed a run on three hits and a walk in two innings, and new left-hander Tanner Scott was charged with a run in 1 2/3 innings as the Yankees drew even at 7 in the seventh inning.

But a fresh Darren O'Day stuck out two in a scoreless eighth, and Bleier worked around some drama in the 10th and a one-out double in the 11th to bring his season total to one earned run on seven hits in 8 2/3 innings.

Closer Brad Brach walked a pair and committed an error to load the bases in the 12th before starting a clever 1-2-5 double play with catcher Caleb Joseph and striking out Giancarlo Stanton to end the game.

Bleier said it wasn't too unusual for the relief corps to be called on that early, mostly because their efforts and the offense made it feel as if it was a regular game.

"In the first inning, then you just start piecing together innings like, 'OK, how are we going to get through this game?' But then it was only 5-0 and it was 5-2, 5-4 and it was like, 'All right, we're back in this game.' Then it was just situational-type baseball like any other normal game that was a one-run game. You've got to be ready, obviously."

Showalter might have to make another roster move, something that Saturday's disabled list assignment for Colby Rasmus and the ensuing eight-man bullpen with Jimmy Yacabonis and now Scott makes a bit easier to maneuver. But there's nothing wrong with the players he now has in his mind.

"These guys just don't give in," Showalter said.

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