There hasn’t been much for the Baltimore Orioles to smile about the past few years. A season-opening sweep of the defending AL East champions led by their top prospect would certainly do the trick.
Zach Britton(notes) will try to pitch the Orioles to their first 3-0 start in 14 years Sunday when he makes his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays, who will be without three-time All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria(notes).
After riding a dominant performance from Jeremy Guthrie(notes) to a 4-1 victory in Friday’s season opener, the Orioles received another brilliant outing from a starter Saturday. Chris Tillman(notes) held Tampa Bay hitless for six innings and Nick Markakis(notes) preserved the 3-1 victory with a leaping catch at the wall in the ninth.
Roberts hit a three-run homer in the eighth after he had a two-run triple Friday.
“As we all know, you win with pitching and defense, and that’s what we’ve gotten the first two days,” Roberts said.
Tillman was moved up in the rotation after Brian Matusz(notes) underwent an MRI Friday that revealed a strain in the muscle between his ribs and back. Baltimore then recalled Britton from Triple-A Norfolk after originally planning to keep the 23-year-old left-hander in the minors at least a few weeks to prevent him from accruing service time.
“Sometimes fates just don’t allow it and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail told the team’s official website. “We thought we had five starters and Zach would be sixth and Justin (Duchscherer) seven. Unfortunately, we lost one before we threw a pitch. And we just have to adjust.”
Britton, who had a staff-leading 1.35 ERA this spring, was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010. He was 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA for Double-A Bowie before being promoted to Triple-A, where he went 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 12 starts.
“I have a lot of confidence for Sunday,” Britton said. “Obviously, my adrenaline is going to be going.”
Britton will try to help the Orioles open with three straight wins for the first time since going 4-0 in 1997, the franchise’s last wining season and playoff appearance. Baltimore last swept a three-game series from Tampa Bay July 24-26, 2007.
Offense has been hard to come by for the Rays, who have two runs and eight hits in this series.
“They’ve just outpitched us,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s gone their way both nights, but at some point it’s going to go our way.”
Longoria left Saturday’s game in the sixth inning due to muscle soreness on the left side of his upper body, and will be re-evaluated Sunday. The team hopes he’ll miss no more than a week.
“(It) doesn’t feel like something’s that’s going to keep me off the field for a long time,” Longoria said,
Davis went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA last year, leading AL rookies in wins and ERA and finishing second in strikeouts (113). He was particularly sharp in the second half of the season, going 7-1 with a 3.22 ERA in his final 13 starts.
The right-hander was 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts against the Orioles last season.