Is strikeout increase a good sign for Britton?

Is Zach Britton’s stuff getting better as the season goes on?

He is certainly pitching better and the stat sheet will tell you that his ground-ball ratio is identical to what it was when his ERA was 8.35 over his first four O’s starts this season. But his ERA is 2.36 over his last four starts and 1.25 over the last three.

Why the improvement then?

My theory is that his slider and other secondary pitches have gotten better and been a real key for him. It sure was in his last start against Chicago, when he fanned 10 over eight innings.

His strikeouts are certainly up:

* Britton fanned 11 in 18 1/3 innings over his first four starts.
* Britton fanned 27 in 26 2/3 innings over his last four starts.

So he averaged 5.4 strikeouts every nine innings those first four starts and has averaged 9.1 over the last four. That tells me his stuff or command - or both - have improved over those past four games. He is not getting more ground balls, but he is getting more strikeouts.

Some other notes on the O’s:

* The Orioles have won their last 20 games when scoring four runs or more. Thanks to “O’s Xtra” on MASN for that stat. They are 58-14 on the year when they score four or more.

* The Orioles have been excellent in American League East road games this year. They have won seven of their nine series and could add to that with one win over the next two games. They are 17-11 on the road in the East in 2012.

The Orioles are 5-1 in their last six division road games, allowing just eight runs total and with three shutouts in those six contests.

* J.J. Hardy is hitting with more pop recently. He has eight extra-basse hits with six doubles and two homers over his last 13 games. He is batting .278 in that time, so he is not red-hot, but the pop is apparent.

By the way, feel free to post any comments and/or questions in this blog during tonight’s game. I’ll try to check often and respond as quickly as possible to any questions.

Update: Britton had eight strikeouts over seven innings in tonight’s 12-0 victory over Toronto, so the trend continues.

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