Brach leans on support system to straighten out problems

We see the dugout celebrations after a home run, with the complicated handshakes and sunflower seed showers. We see what transpires at the plate following a walk-off win, with coolers of water dumped over the hero’s head and enough aggressive slaps delivered to the body to leave prints. There also used to be the occasional pies to the face, again in full view of anyone paying attention.

But there’s also the scene inside the clubhouse, away from the public eye, when a pitcher or player is touching rock bottom and fans are ready to storm the ballpark with pitchforks and torches.

(Trust me, you won’t get them through security.)

brad-brach-throwing-front-white.pngOrioles reliever Brad Brach needed a lift after back-to-back blown saves, part of a brutal stretch that saw him allow runs in three consecutive outings. Never good for a pitcher, especially troublesome for a late-inning reliever.

Teammates knew that Brach was down. So did a coaching staff that sensed Brach may have become his own worst enemy. And here’s where the bond that’s formed on this team becomes even stronger.

“A couple of the coaches came up to me and were like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? What’s going on in your head?’ Just reassuring their confidence, which was kind of big,” Brach said.

“I know everybody pays attention, but to have, like Kirb (Wayne Kirby) came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, where’s your head at right now?’ He was like, ‘Why did you lose confidence? We all have confidence in you. Just go back out there and do what you do, stop worrying about what happened because you can’t do anything about it.’ And (Alan) Mills came up to me and said something, Roger (McDowell) came up to me and said something.

“I think coming from the position player coaches, too, it’s kind of big because they watch every outing. It’s one of those things where you think they’re not really paying attention, but they are.”

Manager Buck Showalter noticed how everyone was rallying around Brach and had a little fun with it.

“Buck joked with me after,” Brach said. “He’s like, ‘Hey, did you get enough advice from other people?’ It was funny. It just kind of broke the ice and I think it just helped me get out of my own head.”

Brach is back to getting outs, with two scoreless appearances against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards.

“I felt really good,” he said. “Just kind of got my confidence back a little bit and pounded the zone and stopped trying to nibble and stopped worrying about bad things that can happen. Stuff like that. Just going after the hitters.”

Brach got away from it and he’s not sure why it happened. He didn’t allow a run in his first 11 appearances before his first blown save on April 28 in New York. He picked up his eighth save on May 8 against the Nationals at Camden Yards despite allowing one run, and was rocked two nights later in D.C.

Called on to protect a 6-4 lead, Brach surrendered three runs and four hits and retired only one batter. Jayson Werth led off the ninth inning with a home run to end an 11-pitch at-bat. The floodgates opened, the comeback was sudden and stunning, and it increased Brach’s ERA from 2.41 to 3.79.

Brach didn’t pitch again for six days, with Showalter trying to freshen him up. He inherited a bases-loaded mess in the seventh inning in Detroit and served up a grand slam to J.D. Martinez. Brach’s frustration showed as he snatched a new baseball out of the air with his bare hand.

“I think those two blown saves, for whatever reason, just kind of stuck in my head a little bit there,” he said. “I think I got away from that my second appearance against the Nationals. I kind of fell behind in the count and really had to come into the zone and kind of throw the pitches that the hitters were looking for.

“For me, the biggest thing was kind of throw a mix back in there and not just throwing fastballs every single pitch, and I think that’s got my confidence back up.”

It also helps when the baseball gods are kinder. Brach was victimized by a few bloop hits during his slump. He retired the side in order Saturday night for his ninth save, but the last hitter, Ezequiel Carrera, sent right fielder Seth Smith to the warning track for the out.

“I think it just kind of reaffirms that it’s 162 games and I’m going to have 70-75 outings in a year and I’m not going to be perfect in every single one,” said Brach, who made his first All-Star team last summer.

“Me and Zach (Britton) have kind of talked about it. I talked to him earlier. It’s hard to compare to last year because for both of us those were career years to this point and you want to do everything we did last year, but looking back at it, it’s kind of crazy the first half I had. I’m trying to hold myself to that standard, but it’s kind of a hard standard to hold to.

“I’ve just got to go game to game and just get back into a rhythm and forget about what happened. And it’s easier said than done for me especially, but it’s one of those things where I just really have to concentrate on that game alone and forget about the past.”

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