Zach Britton said he was overthrowing tonight, which could at least partially explain the 100 pitches he threw in five innings, along with the four runs, five hits and four walks in the Orioles' 5-2 loss to the Rays.
"We talk about it almost every night, whether a guy has a good outing or a bad outing. It starts and stops with fastball command," manager Buck Showalter said. "That's one of the reasons Tampa is doing a good job with their starters. They have guys with good command of the fastball. Zach didn't have it tonight. Didn't have command.
"He's just inconsistent with it, like a lot of young pitchers. Hopefully, he'll figure it out with the help he's got and will continue to get.
"He was jerking some balls and throwing some pitches. In fact, some outs he got were balls out of the zone. They were aggressive, I thought, especially early in the game. Once they saw his command wasn't there, they got a little more patient."
Britton wasn't supposed to be pitching this late in the season, but the blueprint for his rookie season had to be changed after he was optioned to the minors and placed on the disabled list. Showalter doesn't think fatigue is a factor.
"He's had a lot of time off, so that might be an excuse if you want to go that way, but I don't think he would do that," Showalter said. "He's got about 20 innings left, so let's see how he finishes. Maybe he'll finish strong."
The Orioles are trying to play the role of spoilers again, as they do every September.
"We have been, up to tonight," Showalter said.
"Zach had 80 pitches in three innings. That makes it tough. Like I've said many times, I've been proud when we get out there and have a tough start, our guys have found a way to ground through it. Tonight was a challenge - deep counts to every hitter, long innings, just got back off a trip and what have you. Tonight we couldn't respond as well as we have for most of the season. Starting pitching has really been a challenge for us, for the most part. The atmosphere and things that's created when you're in deep innings and deep pitch counts, it's a challenge for everybody."