Britton Struggles, Vows To Regain Command
BALTIMORE (AP) — Zach Britton is adopting a closer’s mentality, vowing to wipe away a couple of subpar outings before they develop into a trend he can’t escape.
The Baltimore Orioles’ rookie left-hander had his second straight rough outing in Friday night’s 8-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The five-inning stint was the shortest in his brief major league career and Britton has dropped three straight decisions after beginning the year with a 5-1 record.
“You’re going to have bad outings,” he said. “I had bad outings in the minors. I had three bad outings at Triple-A last year that I can remember off the top of my head, so it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of bouncing back and not letting it turn into three, four, five bad outings.”
Britton had trouble getting his sinker to sink but thought he made a pretty good pitch to fellow rookie J.P. Arencibia in the fifth — a down-and-away fastball that Arencibia poked into the stands in left for his first career grand slam, turning a 3-0 game into a rout.
“It was down where I wanted to. If he doesn’t swing, I think it hits the ground,” Britton said. “… If you watch that at-bat, he wasn’t able to hit those pitches down-and-away when I threw it there. That last pitch kind of cut on me a little bit and ran right on his bat. He did a good job, he hit that ball very hard for where it was. But I think if I make a better pitch, we get out of that inning.”
Arencibia cleared the bases with his ninth homer of the season, Rajai Davis had three hits and the Blue Jays ended a two-game losing streak.
“It’s one of those things you don’t really think about,” Arencibia said. “I don’t remember the last time I hit a grand slam in baseball. It was just one of those things. If I say I was trying to hit a grand slam, I’d be a liar. I just hit the ball and it was able to go out and we had three guys on base. The biggest thing, I think, was it gave our pitcher a cushion and he can pitch with that lead.”
The slam was more than enough for Carlos Villanueva (3-0), who allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings, walking one. He is 2-0 in three starts since moving into the Toronto rotation from the bullpen.
“It’s very fine because we got the win, but still I’m a little upset that I haven’t been able to go deeper in games. … I didn’t want to come out, but I understand, and we had a very comfortable lead at that point,” Villanueva said.
Even though Arencibia is batting only .255, the rookie catcher has 30 RBIs, among the most by a first-year player in the AL. Nineteen of his 41 hits have gone for extra bases.
“He’s been extremely productive against left-handers and that was the case again tonight,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Arencibia. “He’s done an excellent job at the plate and behind the plate, and tonight he had a very good game all-around.”
Toronto has won 21 of 27 games against the Orioles and is 16-3 in its last 19 versus Baltimore.
J.J. Hardy homered for Baltimore, which has dropped six of seven games to fall five games below .500, matching a season high.
Britton (5-4) allowed seven runs — five earned — and six hits.
“I don’t think I did a good job out there,” Britton said. “Falling behind too many hitters. Watch on video and the hits I gave up were all balls out over the plate (and) up. That’s what a good-hitting team does — they hit those pitches. … The last two outings I haven’t executed well and those are the results.”
Five of Toronto’s runs came with two outs, a trend Orioles manager Buck Showalter wants to see corrected.
“It’s something they’re aware of and we’re aware of,” Showalter said. “It’s not that they’re backing off with two outs. It’s just that we can’t seem to make that putaway pitch, a lot of those with two strikes. We haven’t done a good job of using those counts to our favor.”
Two miscues by the Orioles helped Toronto to a 2-0 lead in the second. After Juan Rivera’s leadoff single, Arencibia reached on an error by third baseman Mark Reynolds. Aaron Hill singled in a run and Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a double play before Britton’s wild pitch plated Arencibia.
In the third, Yunel Escobar led off with a double, went to third on Corey Patterson’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Rivera’s sacrifice fly.
Arencibia’s slam broke the game open in the fifth. The Blue Jays loaded the bases on a walk to Escobar, a single by Jose Bautista and a walk to Rivera before Arencibia ripped Britton’s 2-2 fastball into the seats in left.
Villanueva didn’t allow a hit until Hardy led off the fifth with a single to center, the first of four Baltimore hits in the inning. Hardy later scored on Robert Andino’s two-out liner to left and a single by Adam Jones to make it 7-2.
Escobar’s broken-bat single in the sixth scored Davis, who had doubled with one out and stole third base.
Hardy hit a two-run homer off Jason Frasor in the eighth.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)