The Orioles pulled out the win, and an increasingly rare series victory, in a nail-biter on Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards. But, before Manny Machado could become the hero in the bottom of the 12th inning, there was a rare collapse from Zach Britton.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, it was the first blown save from the Orioles’ closer since late 2015. After a perfect 2016 in what was perhaps the greatest season by a reliever in MLB history, and a shaky 2017 containing multiple DL stints, Britton’s streak was going strong at an AL-record 60 straight games.
Britton may have came up shy of Eric Gagne’s 84-game stretch from the early 2000’s, but it’s still good for second all time in all of baseball. Besides, an AL record is an AL record. It’s not like the Orioles have that many so let’s take what we can get. Considering Tom Gordon’s 54 saves lasted nearly two decades untouched, Britton’s 60 games has solid chance of sitting atop American League record books for some time.
A look back
It was a simpler time back on September 20th, 2015. The Orioles looked much like the 2017 team in terms of playoff chances, or lack there of, and were playing guys like Jimmy Paredes and David Lough. On the pop culture side of things, Adele only had one studio album, no one could possibly identify a fidget spinner, and a mannequin challenge would’ve sounded more like a drunken dare at the mall than a YouTube sensation.
To help contextualize just how long it’s been since Britton’s last blown save, let’s take a look back at some more things that have come along, and in some cases have already disappeared, since the start of Zach’s impressive streak.
Starbucks’ holiday cups
It was maybe the dumbest internet controversy of all time and then somehow it became real news. Back when Zach Britton’s streak began, Starbucks was still putting Santa’s on their holiday cups that were fifteen minutes from becoming trash. Your Facebook was also a much nicer place, devoid of people arguing about the disposable Starbucks cups for some reason.
It’s hard to believe we were strong enough to make it through such chaos, but hey if you can withstand the 1998-2011 Orioles, anything is possible.
Remember Harambe and his innocent slaughter? The 440 lb western lowland gorilla was gunned down at the Cincinnati Zoo to protect a three-year-old boy and the internet went absolutely bananas.
It was meme heaven. It went so far that Public Policy Polling included Harambe in their polling for the United States presidential election and the gorilla held a steady lead on Jill Stein for weeks.
By the time anyone outside of the Cincinnati area had ever heard of Harambe the gorilla, Britton’s consecutive save streak had already been going for eight months. There was no official end to the memes, hell I’ll still laugh at a good one tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure they died well before Britton’s streak ended on Wednesday afternoon.
Chipotle’s E. coli outbreak
Remember when E. coli wasn’t a well-documented threat associated with eating fast casual Mexican food? It’s not like Chipotle was truly ever beyond suspicion, but it was nice when the government wasn’t essentially confirming that the sixteen-year-olds cooking your favorite lunch were paying no attention to the temperatures of literally anything at all.
If Zach Britton was shook up by the news, it wouldn’t have affected his streak considering the media frenzy didn’t begin until after the Orioles’ season ended in 2015. Just two saves into his run at the time, Britton had an entire off-season to adjust his diet around the Chipotle news. Or if he’s anything like me, he spent the winter months staring death in the face and enjoying the shorter lines.
People were literally crashing their cars on the streets of Baltimore because they were too glued to their phones trying to catch virtual Pokémon. You could look around any city park and see a countless number of oblivious Baltimorons just asking to get mugged while they relived the glory days of Game Boy Color.
When Britton’s steak started in September 2015, the idea of becoming a literal Pokémon trainer in your own neighborhood was about as far-fetched as currently thinking the Orioles are playoff-bound. But that was the world we lived in, more than nine months before the launch of Pokémon Go.
Appreciate the streak
It’s been an extremely impressive run since Britton’s streak began nearly two full seasons ago, and I think it’s good to appreciate exactly how long it lasted. Odds are we may not see another streak of dominance like that from an Orioles closer to decades.
Let’s hear some more things that came and went during Britton’s AL-record 60-game save streak. If the United States of America can have four different White House Communications Directors in less than six months, I’m sure there are some hilarious things out there that I’m missing. Pop in the comments to remind us all. Let’s get a nice list going.