In tonight's battle of the lefties, Zach Britton somehow prevailed in a game that was dominated by David Price for six innings. Britton allowed two runs in the first, then held the Rays long enough for the Orioles to get to Price for three runs in the seventh inning. The bullpen held the one-run lead for three innings, no thanks to the increasingly cartoonish Kevin Gregg, giving the Orioles the victory.
Going by the first inning of tonight's game, it didn't look like it would be a good night for the Orioles. Price needed just eleven pitches to retire the side in order with two strikeouts, then Britton came on and didn't look sharp at all. After a leadoff single from Desmond Jennings, Britton walked Johnny Damon. That set the table for Evan Longoria, who lined a double down the left field line to easily score both runners.
After getting the next two batters (with Longoria moving to third on a fly ball out), Britton hit Sean Rodriguez. Rodriguez promptly stole second, but Zach struck out Casey Kotchman to end the inning. It was a thirty-one pitch inning, and it looked like it was going to be a long night for Britton and the Orioles.
When the second inning started, it looked like it would be more of the same. Jose Lobaton (I don't know who he is, either) led off with a double, then for some reason Brandon Guyer bunted him to third base. Thanks for that, Rays. Britton followed that with another walk, this one to Jennings. With runners on first and third with one out it looked like trouble, but Britton induced a ground ball from Damon for an inning-ending double play.
Though the Rays wasted that opportunity, the way Britton was pitching it seemed like they'd have plenty more. They wouldn't, though, as Britton settled down. Over the next four innings he allowed just two more baserunners, one of whom was eliminated on a double play. It was great to see the rookie work through his troubles and come back strong like that. Well done, Zach! His final pitching line was 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.
Unfortunately it didn't look like the Orioles would be able to take advantage of Britton's good night. Through six innings the Orioles had just three base runners, and Price racked up ten strikeouts. In fact, he struck out every hitter in the lineup except for Vladimir Guerrero.
The O's only chance against Price early in the game came in the second inning. Guerrero worked a walk (that feels weird to type) and Matt Wieters followed that with a single. Price responded by striking out the next two batters, then Nolan Reimold flied out to end the inning. Beginning with the strikeout of Mark Reynolds that followed Wieters' single, Price retired fourteen straight Orioles until Nick Markakis reached on an error with two outs in the sixth inning.
Going into the seventh inning, Price had thrown just 81 pitches and had shown no signs of slowing down. But something happened and he lost the strike zone, giving the Orioles to finally come back.
Guerrero, again leading off the inning, singled to right field. After Wieters was called out on strikes, Price walked Reynolds and Robert Andino back-to-back. That loaded the bases for Nolan Reimold, who hit a long fly ball to left field. Vlad tagged up and put the Orioles on the board.
The O's caught a lucky break after that, as Ryan Adams swung at the first pitch and hit it towards Kotchman at first. Kotchman got a glove on the ball, but it bounced away from him and to Ben Zobrist at second base. No one could get to first in time to cover, though, and Adams was safe. That re-loaded the bases for J.J. Hardy.
Price and Hardy engaged in a good battle, with Price pumping in 97-mph fastballs. J.J. took a couple of them for balls, fouled a few off, and finally hit a ball right between the third baseman and shortstop for a single. Reynolds scored easily and Willie Randolph waved in Andino as well. It would have been a close play at the plate, but the left fielder Jennings dropped the ball.
Price retired Markakis to end the inning, but the Orioles had taken the lead. It seemed impossible with the ay Price had been pitching. Not that the Orioles put a major whooping on Price, but he had looked so untouchable until then that it was shocking. Price's final pitching line was 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 11 K.
Jim Johnson came on to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, and what can you even say about JJ at this point? He was perfect for two innings, holding the lead just as we've all come to expect. It's a shame that after that we had to see Kevin Gregg.
Seriously, Kevin Gregg? You can go away now. You are terrible. Why do you take a feel-good game and ruin it? I have news for you, Kevin Gregg. If it wasn't for a great play by Hardy and Reynolds to end the game, you would have blown another save. You are the worst!!
I can't even write about what Kevin Gregg did, because he makes me so mad. So instead here is the play log from mlb.com:
That final play, the ground out to Hardy at short, was a gem. Hardy played the ball deep in the hole and made a long throw that Reynolds picked on a bounce to end the game. Here's the video to prove it.
So, in conclusion, Zach Britton overcame his troubles and had a good game, the O's offense scored enough runs to win against one of the toughest lefties in baseball, and Kevin Gregg almost ruined it. But I'm sure he feels fine tonight because there is an (S) next to his name in the box score.