Beating the reeling New York Yankees in two out of three games and watching Kevin Gausman excel were two obvious storylines from Thursday night at Camden Yards.
But the moment that allowed the Orioles and their fan base to sigh a breath of relief came in the ninth, when closer Zach Britton entered with two outs.
He threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball and picked up the win when Pedro Alvarez hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th to give the Orioles a 1-0 victory.
The important thing is Britton pitched.
“I felt good throwing that side session today. Felt pretty good fielding the positon, so I told Buck (Showalter), ‘I was good if you needed me to pitch today.’ I was available,” Britton said. “He said if we had a chance to win the game, I was going to be in there.”
The last time we saw Britton in a game was Saturday when he hobbled off the mound after attempting to field a bunt. He jammed his left ankle and it didn’t look good initially. Losing Britton for any period of time would have tested the club’s biggest strength, its bullpen.
He was lost for only three games, remarkable considering how the injury initially looked.
“I think it’s more a credit to the training staff. They do a really good job staying on top of things,” Britton said. “I’ve never had an ankle injury, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but I’ve been told that’s a quick return.”
Britton knows Thursday was encouraging, but the real answers come Friday, and how the ankle responds.
“That will be the biggest test I think for me. I was running off adrenaline and a lot of hot stuff on the ankle, but I was just happy to get out there,” he said. “So hopefully I feel good (Friday).”
Britton wasn’t his normally crisp self to start. He threw a wild pitch on his first pitch, allowing the inherited runner, Starlin Castro, to get to second base. But then Matt Wieters picked off Castro with a laser throw that nearly gave Britton a haircut before he ducked.
Britton also walked his first batter of the 10th before striking out the side, ultimately earning the victory.
“Matt made a huge play (in the ninth) to get us back in the dugout,” Britton said. “So I felt like that time in the dugout, sitting on the bench, I was able to come down and refocus a little bit.”
The Orioles can breathe a little bit better, too. They may have lost shortstop J.J. Hardy for at least six weeks with a foot fracture, but Britton’s initially concerning injury barely shelved him.