Orioles reliever Brad Brach is getting locked in again. Over his last five outings, he has pitched five hitless and scoreless innings, with American League hitters going 0-for-15 against him with seven strikeouts.
Last night, Brach saved the Orioles’ 3-2 win over Boston with an 1-2-3 top of the ninth on just 11 pitches. He threw nothing but fastballs between 95 and 97 mph to get Andrew Benintendi to fly out on one pitch and Xander Bogaerts to do the same on six pitches. But then he threw three straight split-finger fastballs between 85 and 87 to get Mitch Moreland to ground out back to the mound.
“Last few outings, my fastball has been good, so I’ve been sticking with it a little bit,” Brach said. “And Moreland, he’s a good fastball hitter. He didn’t seem to be on the changeup, so I kind of stuck with it there. It’s unusual to go an at-bat without throwing one fastball. But it was kind of what we saw and (catcher) Caleb (Joseph) saw it, too.”
Brach is happy to get a save anytime but was particularly glad to wrap this one up after starter Alec Asher had pitched so well, allowing two runs over 6 1/3.
“Definitely. Anytime you get a start like that from your starter and he gets deep in the game like that, you want to close it out for him. I just wanted to attack the zone and we didn’t want to let that lead get away,” Brach said.
For the season, Brach is 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 11 saves in 14 chances. Over 25 innings, he has allowed 15 hits with nine walks, 26 strikeouts and a .174 batting average against.
The Orioles didn’t exactly flip a switch and start winning again, but it seems like it. When they lost Sunday at Houston, they came home riding a seven-game losing streak with a 3-13 record over 16 games. Now they’ve gone 4-1 against the Yankees and Red Sox.
“I think anyone that has watched this team over the last few years, sometimes when we get in a rut, it’s an extended one,” Brach said. “But when we are playing well, we’re as good as anyone out there. You know, coming here we’ve had some nice home crowds and it’s great to get wins and get back going in the right direction.”
And they keep winning games against AL East opponents. The Orioles are 21-11 in the division and are 14-5 in division home games.
I asked Brach his take on why the Orioles are so good in AL East games.
“No idea. I can’t really explain it,” he said. “Maybe it is opponents that we know really well and maybe our scouting is better versus them. Not sure what the deal is. I think it is also just being comfortable against these guys. We play a lot of close games against them and we are pretty good in close games.”