The Baltimore Orioles are still far behind in the American League East division standings, sitting in fourth place as of July 2 with a 39-41 overall wins/losses record.
But there’s still good news for Orioles fans to celebrate.
Orioles closer Zach Britton. (AP)
According to multiple reports, O’s ace closer, Zach Britton, should be returning to the Major Leagues relatively soon after missing the majority of the first half of the 2017 season due to injury. His return to the Orioles bullpen is scheduled for July 5.
The impact of Britton’s return is huge. This isn’t just any player rejoining the roster; Britton is arguably the best closer in all of baseball. He had perhaps the greatest season of any relief pitcher last year when he successfully converted all 47 of his save opportunities.
Britton continued his dominance of the ninth inning this season, extending his streak of consecutive saves converted. He earned his 50th consecutive save in just the second game of this year’s season, becoming just the fifth player in MLB to pull off the feat. By April 14, Britton had converted 54 straight saves, putting him in second place for the most consecutive saves converted ever.
But Britton was suddenly sidelined due to left arm soreness on April 16 and hasn’t been back since. Reliever Brad Brach has done a decent job filling in for Britton. Brach has converted 15 of his 19 attempts at closing out games, which may not be perfect like Britton but still very good. But, Brach was usually the set-up man for Britton, making them possibly the best one-two punch in baseball when it comes to closing games.
“Having him back is going to be huge, and I just think everybody knows that when he gets back we can have the team back to full strength,” Brach told the Baltimore Sun. “It can only help us. I think it’s one of those things where we’ve kind of kept our head above water here. And if we can get on a little bit of a roll, having Zach back will definitely help us.”
Brach may be right. The last time Britton was healthy, the Orioles were five games above .500 and in first place of the AL East. Now they’re two games below .500, trailing three of their most hated rivals for the division lead. A spike in the production from the bullpen could perhaps inspire better production in other areas of the team. That’s at least what both the Orioles and their fan base are hoping for.