Standing in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park on Wednesday, Zach Britton shrugged off the end of one of the most impressive streaks in Orioles history.
Heading into Wednesday night, the Orioles closer hasn’t allowed an earned run in 43 straight appearances, dating back to when he permitted a run April 30 versus the Chicago White Sox.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, that’s the longest such streak of scoreless outings in modern baseball history.
Britton allowed no earned runs in 10 May games, 12 June games, 13 July games and eight in August before Anthony Rendon doubled home Bryce Harper with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
“I knew eventually something is going to happen. Because you get some good luck along the way. I don’t think anybody that’s ever had a streak like that would ever say they did it and there was no luck involved,” said Britton, who has now allowed earned runs in just four of 55 appearances this season. “There are outings where maybe you should have given up one and you didn’t. I didn’t really focus on it too much.
“I was eventually going to give up one. I just didn’t want it to be an outing where we got a loss,” he added. “That was the biggest thing, just trying to win the game for the team, just help them win.”
It was a strange ending to the streak for Britton and a surreal ending of a 10-8 victory for the Orioles.
They started the ninth up 10-3 with rookie Parker Bridwell on the mound. He had had a clean inning in the eighth, but things quickly unraveled for him in the ninth.
Two singles, a strikeout and a walk. And then Bridwell served up a grand slam to Daniel Murphy. Suddenly, it was a three-run game and Britton was needed.
Britton said he had begun to get loose when the bases were loaded, but once Murphy hit the grand slam, he knew he had to hurry as manager Buck Showalter walked slowly to the mound.
“Mentally you’ve got to stay in it. When Murphy hit the home run there, I thought maybe I’d get one more hitter, so I threw four more pitches as Buck was making his way out. Just tried to get mentally and physically ready to go. And didn’t really make more than one good pitch out of that outing,” Britton said. “It was tough. It was a quick one, warmed up and went right into the game. Not ideal, but we had a cushion, so if there was any day to not be your best, it was today. Just happy we won.”
Britton entered to face Harper and gave up a single. Harper then scored the streak-breaker on Rendon’s double. Wilson Ramos followed with a comebacker to Britton, who turned and saw Rendon off second base. So instead of going for the sure out at first, he tried to get the lead runner. Rendon got back safely.
“I know a lot of people think that’s probably not what you’re supposed to do, but that is what you are taught to do. Less than two outs, a guy takes off for third you throw it to second,” Britton said. “You want to pitch with a guy on first base anyway, you’d rather pitch there then with the guy on second even with two outs. It didn’t go my way, but it’s set up the double play for me, so you can look at it that way.”
Suddenly, the Nationals had the go-ahead runner at the plate in Ryan Zimmerman, who hit into a game-ending double play to help Britton and the Orioles escape.
Britton is considered a serious candidate for American League Cy Young Award. And he should remain that way despite the ninth-inning scare. His ERA sits at 0.69. He still hasn’t blown a save in 38 chances this year. But his 43-game scoreless streak is no more.
“All good things come to an end at some point,” Britton said. “So just start a new one.”