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Mychal Givens taking the closer role in stride

Since the Zach Britton trade at the end of July, right-hander Mychal Givens has been thrust into the closer’s role, generating mostly positive results in the process.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night in Seattle, Mychal Givens nailed down his sixth save of the year in a 5-3 win over the Mariners. He pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless baseball, the only blemish on his pitching line an intentional walk to Kyle Seager.

Givens entered the game in the eighth with the bases loaded and one out, at which point he induced a ground ball fielder’s choice that ended with a throwing error by Breyvic Valera. As a result, two runs scored, both of which were charged to the previous pitcher, Paul Fry.

But Givens did not shrink when things out of his control went wrong. After an intentional walk, he fanned Chris Herrmann to end the Mariners threat. The next inning, he set the Mariners down 1-2-3 to close the door.

The Orioles have not had many save opportunities recently, or at all this season, which is understandable when considering the quality of the team. But when there has been a save chance recently, manager Buck Showalter has called upon Givens, and more often than not, the results have been good.

Although his overall numbers leave something to be desired — 0-7 with a 4.64 ERA and 1.39 WHIP — he has taken his game to another level since the Orioles traded Zach Britton to the Yankees on July 24 and a hole opened up at the back end of the bullpen.

In August alone, Givens had a 2.89 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 9.1 innings, a .194 opponents’ batting average and four saves in five opportunities. Since Britton was traded, Givens has five saves in seven chances. His only other save came much earlier in the year, on May 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

While on the topic of the first half, I should also mention that Givens had two blown saves back then, bringing his total to four on the year. His first was April 3 against the Houston Astros when he allowed two runs in an inning of work and his second came on June 30 against the Los Angeles Angels when he allowed four runs in 0.1 innings.

His most recent blown save came on September 1 against the Kansas City Royals. In Jon Meoli’s game wrap for the Baltimore Sun that night, Givens’ quotes showed a maturity and accountability beyond his years, when he said “...I just failed the team, as far as I didn’t close out the game, and they worked their butts off getting back in the game. I just have to do a better job.”

His very next time to the mound, Givens bounced back. Three days after that missed opportunity against the Royals, he handled the Mariners for 1.2 innings and earned a save. Good closers possess short memories and Givens proved he has that attribute.

This is right-hander’s fourth major league season and although he is 28, he is still very young for a pitcher, considering he was initially drafted and developed as a shortstop. His first three years in the minors, from age 20 to 22, he carried a .247/.331/.311 batting line as a hitter. In 2013, at age 23, he began his transition from shortstop to pitcher. Two short years later, he made his debut on the mound for the Orioles.

Taking his relatively short experience into account, he still has room to grow as a pitcher, which is a little scary. Because he’s pretty good already.

Givens has a wicked cross body delivery full of deception. Not to mention, he throws hard. This year, his average four seam fastball velocity is 95.1 mph, a full two mph higher than the league average of 93.1. Brooks Baseball offers a great description of his pitch arsenal below:

His four seam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ four seamers, has some natural sinking action and has well above average velo. His slider is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of ground balls compared to other pitchers’ sliders and is much harder than usual. His change dives down out of the zone, generates a very high amount of ground balls compared to other pitchers’ changeups and is slightly firmer than usual.

Givens offers a lot of upside. He has a good head on his shoulders and the pure stuff to become a solid major league closer. The past month plus of this lost season has only been a test run for him in the ninth inning role and there have been a few bumps along the way, but he has also shown great potential. In Givens, the O’s may have a key cog to close out games going forward. And if the rebuild takes as long as people are saying, then they also have a valuable commodity to trade for other pieces in the future.