Against Orioles' Zach Britton, Royals 'get the breaks' in decisive ninth inning

Orioles closer Zach Britton prefers to pitch to contact, keep the ball on the ground with his heavy sinker and allow his defense to work behind him.

But with the way the Kansas City Royals were getting on base — with dinks and bloops and swinging bunts — Britton could only shake his head after the Royals scored two runs in his decisive ninth-inning appearance.

Britton was making good pitches, and drawing weak contact, but the Royals still were rounding the bases. Their 6-4 win in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series put the Orioles in an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series.

"It's difficult because the postseason is tough," Britton said. "In the regular season, you know you have the next day and the next day and the next day. And now you're frustrated, but you've got to bounce back quick. No one's feeling sorry for you. The team is relying on the pitchers to keep the game close."

Britton entered a tied game with one man on and no outs in the ninth.

Britton, who had converted 37 of 41 save opportunities in his first year as Orioles closer, now has allowed runs in two of his past three postseason outings. Teammate Darren O'Day saved him from further damage in Game 1.

"I'm really proud of Zach," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We had some ground balls find some holes, and [we’ve] got to keep grinding and some of those things will [work out for us]. We've had some fortunate things happen to us, too."

In Friday's Game 1, Britton couldn't find the plate, walking the bases loaded in the ninth inning before O'Day was able to get the Orioles out of trouble by inducing an inning-ending double play.

On Saturday, Britton was called upon to clean up for O'Day, who allowed a swinging-bunt infield single to Omar Infante to lead off the ninth in a 4-4 game.

Two batters later, after a sacrifice bunt by Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar slapped a sinker by Britton down the right-field line for an RBI double, scoring a run charged to O'Day.

"I thought he was late," Britton said. "The way he swung at it, it was like he didn't even know where it went. I saw that on video, too. I beat him pretty good. It's just, they got on a roll. They got a guy in scoring position, and it seems like they get the breaks."

After Jarrod Dyson reached on a fielding error by third baseman Ryan Flaherty, Lorenzo Cain blooped an RBI single into left for his fourth hit of the game, scoring Escobar.

Britton recovered to strike out Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, but by then, the damage was done.

"You make an adjustment," Britton said. "Against Hosmer and Butler, I went for the strikeouts rather than to get a ground ball. It was a mindset change I had to make. With Cain, I had him 0-2 and I threw him a slider that I thought was pretty good. … When the breaks are going the other team's way, you're got to do something to offset that, and if that's going for the strikeout, you have to do that."

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad