KANSAS CITY, MO. — The drama of Thursday night’s game had little to do with impressive Kansas City rookie Yordano Ventura or another short but solid performance from Wei-Yin Chen of the Baltimore Orioles.
No, this one was mostly about who the Orioles would use to close out their 2-1 victory over the Royals.
The answer was lefty Zach Britton, who had not had a save in his professional career — not in the minors nor majors. And he handled it flawlessly, the way he has pitched this season.
Britton entered to face dangerous lefty Alex Gordon, who grounded out. Then, with dangerous hitter Danny Valencia at the plate, Orioles Manager Buck Showalter stayed with Britton while previous closer Tommy Hunter remained in the bullpen.
On a full count, the sinkerballing Britton got Valencia to ground out to shortstop J.J. Hardy. Britton then got Johnny Giavotella to ground out to preserve the win.
In his first chance, Britton posted a perfect inning, something Hunter has yet to accomplish this year. Hunter, who had blown two consecutive saves after converting 10 of 11, briefly warmed in the bullpen in the eighth. But it was four other relievers — Darren O’Day, Troy Patton, Ryan Webb and Britton — who combined to throw 32 / 3 scoreless innings.
The Orioles (21-18) avoided a season-worst five game losing streak and evened their season series with the Royals at 2-2.
The Royals (20-20) had won three straight and six of their last eight before Thursday. The Orioles’ offense again struggled — scoring three runs or fewer for the 11th time in 18 games and fourth in their last five games.