SAN DIEGO -- Zach Britton knew of the impending task at hand on Monday.The Orioles' closer said American League manager Ned Yost christened him as "the guy" for the ninth inning of the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on the eve of the celebrated affair -- hand-picked among a bevy
SAN DIEGO -- Zach Britton knew of the impending task at hand on Monday.
The Orioles' closer said American League manager Ned Yost christened him as "the guy" for the ninth inning of the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on the eve of the celebrated affair -- hand-picked among a bevy of deserving candidates, including the Yankees' Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.
Come Tuesday, it took on greater meaning, with the AL carrying a 4-2 lead that Britton would preserve for the save, his first as an All-Star.
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"Ned told me yesterday, which was pretty cool," Britton said. "There are a lot of really good arms in the AL. It's impressive. We've watched these guys all year, especially Dellin and Andrew. It was pretty cool to be in a bullpen with those guys and to imagine, 'What if I actually had these guys in the season to partner with me and the other guys?'"
Baltimore teammates Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Mark Trumbo and Brad Brach also donned the AL jersey, and it was Wieters who formed a battery with Britton as he went through a string of heavy hitters in the ninth.
The left-hander yielded a leadoff single to Washington's Daniel Murphy but wiped him off the bases by handling Paul Goldschmidt's ensuing grounder for a forceout at second. Britton then induced a double-play ball from the Rockies' Nolan Arenado to end the game.
"Last year, I came in in the sixth inning, so obviously a little different, but it was nice to have Wieters back there," Britton said. "Once I gave up the hit to Murphy, I was thinking, 'OK, well, it's even better if we close this out and they don't score.' He's really tough for left-handed pitchers. He put together a really good at-bat, but you just try to make a better pitch the next time, and that's what I was able to do."
Machado, making his third career All-Star appearance, enjoyed his first start, playing five innings at third base while finishing 0-for-3 at the plate. Twice, he flied out to left field, and he grounded out to third in his other at-bat.
"It was a great experience," Machado said. "The first one starting, and I definitely enjoyed every single moment of it. I am looking forward, hopefully, to the next one."
Upon Machado's exit, Trumbo and Wieters entered the game as defensive replacements for the start of the sixth inning.
Wieters fell victim to a Max Scherzer strikeout to end the sixth, setting the stage for Trumbo to lead off the seventh. The slugging left fielder, who already put on quite the show in Monday's T-Mobile Home Run Derby, reached on an error against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester in his lone at-bat.
Wieters stepped to the plate again with two outs, this time in the eighth against the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen, and struck out swinging on three pitches.
First-time All-Star Brach, drafted by San Diego in 2008, didn't get in the game, instead acting as a spectator as Yost rolled out a formidable cast of relievers before Britton: Kansas City's Kelvin Herrera, Betances, Miller and Houston's Will Harris. Wieters caught all four.
The Orioles have had at least three All-Stars in each of the past five years.
"It's always good when you come with a lot of teammates," Machado said. "It just makes it better. You get to hang out with them and share all this. Making an All-Star Game is a team effort, and it's been really fun to do this with them."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com.