If manager Buck Showalter had to pick out any flaws from Zach Britton’s performance tonight, he’d focus on the rookie allowing Dustin Pedroia to easily steal third base in the fourth inning, and all the deep counts.
That’s about it.
“You’d like to see him be able to take that stuff over another inning or so, but I thought the bullpen was really good tonight, J.J. and Kevin,” Showalter said. “And I’ve got to tell you, Wieters put on a clinic again tonight behind the plate. He blocked four or five balls that a lot of people don’t sniff. Pretty impressive. But Zach gave us a chance to win against a good team.”
Britton doesn’t appear to get rattled despite only five major league starts.
“So far, he’s been good,” Showalter said. “He’s handled it pretty well for a guy with limited experience. We like the things he’s doing right now.”
The Orioles’ offense didn’t bust loose tonight, but it scored early. And those 12 hits against Clay Buchholz were a career-high for the Boston starter.
“We’re a hit away from opening it up a little bit, but Buchholz is pretty good. So is Beckett and so is Lester and so is Lackey and Matsuzaka. It’s the big leagues, so you’ve got to give them credit, too. But we scored a run to get up early. Just something to give Zach a little margin for error. He was facing a lot of left-handed hitters tonight and I thought he handled it well.”
One of the big keys in the game was Adam Jones’ 11-pitch at-bat in the second. He struck out, but he made Buchholz work, something we hadn’t seen up to that point.
“Sometimes, it ends up being a strikeout, but it’s still a quality at-bat,” Showalter said. “Jonesy’s put together a lot of good at-bats. If he stays within himself and lets his ability play, he’s going to be tough. He’s been impressive.”
The Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, were a combined 5-for-9 with three runs scored.
“They swung the bats well pretty quietly,” Showalter said. “They’ve had some good games where they haven’t had anything to show for it, too. I know Derrek especially has remained very calm through it. He understands the big picture and the reality of what competing for this span of time’s about.”
Jim Johnson struck out four in two scoreless innings, and Kevin Gregg retired the side in order in the ninth for his third save.
“Jimmy’s had a good look on his face since the first day of spring training,” Showalter said. “He’s healthy, feels good. Had a real low pitch count there in the seventh, and there will be some times with some off-days where you’ll use him and Koji and Kevin, but you’d like to stay away from one of them to have him tomorrow fresh. As good as he was in the seventh, the part of the order he went through in the eighth was pretty impressive, too. But there’s not a part of their order that’s not impressive.”