But Givens was a pitcher on a pretty good roll that got derailed Saturday night at Detroit and that continued last night in Baltimore.
At Comerica Park, he gave up a game-tying homer with two outs in the last of the ninth inning and the Orioles lost 8-4 in 12 innings to the Tigers. Last night he gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth to Justin Smoak that put the Blue Jays ahead 5-4, and later Givens allowed a two-run triple to Cavan Biggio. It happened pretty fast as the O’s fell 8-5 in the series opener.
And suddenly Givens is struggling. But in a month of appearances leading up to the game in Detroit he had an ERA of 0.82 over 11 games and an opponent slash line of .132/.195/.132. He fanned 17 with three walks in 11 innings.
Going further back, Givens had allowed just two homers over 26 games and 27 2/3 innings in about three months of pitching until the game in Detroit. Now he’s allowed homers in back-to-back outings. And yes, some of the media and fans tend to forget three months where he allowed two homers and remember the two games where he gave up two.
Givens did point to homers allowed - his homer rate this year is a career-high 1.9 per every nine innings - earlier today when I asked him to assess his 2019 season.
“I think honestly I’ve given up more homers than I expected to,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve located the ball the best I have done in my career. The strikeout rate is really high (a career-best 12.7 K/9). Pretty happy with what has been going on. The first half was tough. There were some unlucky things happening but tried to turn a new leaf in the second half.
“It can be tough to be a bullpen guy. I’ve played professionally every day as a position player (to start his minor league career), but it can be tough in the bullpen. We only pitch once to three or four times a week and those times you are called on to be perfect. Sometimes you give up a couple of runs and you see your ERA shoot through the roof. Going back to 2016, think back to the stretch Zack Britton had and that was unbelievable.”
For the season in 53 games, Givens is 2-6 with an ERA of 4.47 with 11 saves in 18 chances and a WHIP of 1.200.
But the role of a reliever means you have to move quickly onto the next game. Whether the last one was rough or lights out.
“It gets challenging, it gets tough,” said Givens. “You just have to put it past you. The word past means we have to put it behind us. Look at a guy like Richard Bleier. He is having a tough year but look at his numbers over his career. For a stretch recently we had one of the best bullpens in the game. The ups and downs are tough, but you have to compete.
“No excuses, but your body gets tired and you have to fight through it. You leave some balls up. Been pretty damn good throughout the second half (an ERA of 2.78 heading into Saturday). Nothing to say bad about my defense, Mason Williams almost ran through the wall for me. You have to kind of get through it. Bear through body aches and get through it,” he said.