Orioles bullpen continues to be team's strength

Orioles bullpen continues to be team's strength

Orioles bullpen continues to be team's strength
BALTIMORE -- Asked about the performance of his standout bullpen in Tuesday's 14-inning win, manager Buck Showalter made his feelings clear.

"The bullpen was the difference," Showalter said of a group that threw nine scoreless innings. "[We] took everybody to the limit."

And, like they've done all year, the Orioles' relievers delivered. Consider this: Baltimore's bullpen entered Wednesday with a 3.06 ERA -- fourth-best in the Majors and second-best in the American League -- despite throwing 370 innings, which is at least 40 more than the clubs ahead of them.

In 41 extra innings this season, the Orioles bullpen has pitched to a 1.10 ERA holding opponents to a .185/.242/.247 line after the ninth-inning and anchoring Baltimore's 12 consecutive extra-innings wins.

"I think the part that makes people scratch their head is nobody has ever heard of us," reliever Kevin Gregg, one of three pitchers who tossed two scoreless innings Tuesday, said of the Orioles 'pen.

"We've been able to use everybody in the 'pen consistently and mix [and] match roles and not really wear out anybody for a bunch of days in a row. It's created an environment for success for everything."

The Orioles are 23-6 in one-run games, with closer Jim Johnson tied for the league lead in saves (33) and setup man Pedro Strop extending his scoreless streak to 14 consecutive outings with an inning Tuesday. In addition to Gregg, Matt Lindstrom and Darren O'Day were extended to go two scoreless innings in Tuesday's marathon-contest, with O'Day throwing the 13th and 14th and improving to a perfect 6-0.

"We just have fun and whenever they call and tell us to pitch, we go and pitch," said O'Day, who is tied for the second-most wins by an Orioles reliever since 2000. "I wish I could tell you [why we're having so much success]. Nobody expected much out of us in Spring Training. So, it's fun proving people wrong."

Showalter has been careful to limit the ups each reliever gets in a game, choosing to not use Johnson after getting him up earlier in Tuesday's game given that he had pitched the three games prior. And despite the Orioles picking up a lot of innings, none of their relievers rank among the top in appearances, with Johnson's 49 games the most and ranking him 38th-most overall.

"They don't look at it as a reason to fail," Showalter said of the bullpen's beyond-the-norm workload. "There's an excuse there if you're willing to take it. I know [pitching coach Rick Adair] and the pitchers in the bullpen, most have talked about, 'OK here's where we are,' and it may not be perfectly conventional.

"I'm sure Darren is not used to pitching two innings, or Lindstrom or Kevin, but that's what we needed, and they were properly rested for that yesterday. But they're not for that tonight. That's why we made the [roster] moves. I'm not going to pitch them two innings tonight. We get into that same type of game tonight, you'll see [designated hitter] Chris Davis."