Baltimore Orioles rookie Zach Britton made his second start this afternoon and earned rave reviews for his performance, shutting down the high-octane Texas Rangers offense that exploded for 13 runs in the night-cap of the double-header.
Britton, who admittedly didn't have his best stuff in his MLB debut, was firing on all cylinders Saturday afternoon. His sinker, which was rated as the best pitch in the minors by Baseball America, was in fine form. He utilized the pitch for 13 ground-ball outs, and was as dominating as a pitcher who only recorded two strikeouts could be.
He did issue three walks but was aided by three double-plays on ground balls.
In case you didn't feel like checking the leaderboard, Britton now leads all American League starting pitchers who have more than one start this season, with a 0.66 ERA. He's second in MLB to Tim Lincecum's 0.64. He's only allowed seven hits in 13.2 innings and has a WHIP of 0.95.
More importantly, he's 2-0.
Now that it looks like Britton is going to stick around for a while, let's delve into the long-term ramifications of his presence on this club.
With two victories and a minuscule ERA, he has to be the front-runner for the American League Rookie of the Year award. Other rookies such as Jeremy Hellickson and Michael Pineda have gotten off to fine starts, but neither can match the dominance that the Orioles left-hander has displayed through two starts.
Britton has also become a stabilizing force for a rotation that had a pitcher (Jake Arrieta) rocked for eight runs in 3.1 innings tonight, and a saving grace for a bullpen that was depleted in the sandwich games for his start.
Best of all, he's provided a spark for the O's, and hope that in competing, and succeeding against the best teams in the American League, he can help the team continue to contend in the A.L. East.
Britton has passed his first two tests, and his next one should be considerably easier, facing the Indians late next week.
Long term, Britton is likely going to stick on the big-league club. Not only has he proven he deserves to be a part of this rotation, but he's also a very needed arm right now. Brian Matusz should be able to return later this week from the DL, but with Brad Bergesen being optioned to Triple-A, the O's are going to have to dip back into the minors for a starter for Sunday's game.
And then there's no telling what's ailing Arrieta.
Britton looks like he's in Baltimore for good.