ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Rookie Zach Britton did his part to help Baltimore start the new season with three consecutive wins.
Britton pitched six sharp innings in his major league debut, J.J. Hardy hit a two-run double and Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 on Sunday to complete a season-opening three-game sweep.
Britton (1-0) allowed one run and three hits, struck out six and walked three. Recalled before the game from Triple-A Norfolk, Britton had around 30 family members and friends in attendance.
“I was really excited,” Britton said. “After that first inning, I started to get a lot more comfortable out on the mound.”
Mark Reynolds hit a tiebreaking RBI double in Baltimore’s three-run seventh, which also featured Hardy’s big hit. Reynolds added another run-scoring double in the ninth.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” Hardy said. “We’ve got a great feeling in the clubhouse.”
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique injury and is expected to be out at least three weeks. The AL All-Star left Saturday’s game after five innings because of muscle soreness on the left side on his upper body.
“It’s going to be much more difficult, of course,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re going to have to figure out another way to get this done. It’s just the way the baseball season works sometimes.”
Wade Davis (0-1) gave up four runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings for the Rays, who had never before started a season with three straight losses. Tampa Bay had one run and four hits in each game of the series.
Baltimore outscored the Rays 7-2 in winning the first two games. Starters Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Tillman combined to allow three hits over 14 scoreless innings.
“I think it all starts with the pitching, and our pitching has been awesome,” Hardy said.
The Rays have been held to four hits or less in four straight home games, dating to Sept. 29th against Baltimore. Tampa Bay is first team with such a streak since Seattle in August 1989.
“We’re on pace to score 162 runs this year, which might be a major league record,” Maddon said. “The Orioles have pitched well against us. They’ve played some really good defense and have gotten some timely hitting. It sounds like a pretty good formula.”
Matt Wieters put the Orioles up 1-0 with a run-scoring single in the first. But Tampa Bay tied it on Elliot Johnson’s third-inning bunt single.
Britton is filling in for left-hander Brian Matusz, who will be out three to six weeks with a strained muscle on the left side of his back. The 23-year-old left-hander went 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in five games, including four starts, during spring training.
“He was good,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s got a chance to be better.”
Orioles reliever Jason Berken struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh. It was the first time since Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2005, that Baltimore swept a three-game set at Tampa Bay.
The Orioles play their home opener Monday against Detroit.
“We’ve been playing great baseball,” Britton said. “I think this is what everyone expected. Hopefully we can carry this into the next series.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)