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Orioles' Zach Britton hopes to duplicate great 2016 season

Orioles' Zach Britton hopes to duplicate great 2016 season

SARASOTA, Fla. – It's been a short spring training for Zach Britton.

Early in camp, the Baltimore Orioles' left-handed reliever, who converted all 47 of his save opportunities in 2016, felt discomfort in his left oblique and was held out. Britton has said if this were the regular season he would have pitched, and that he is close to being ready to go.

Manager Buck Showalter had wanted Britton to begin pitching in the second week of Grapefruit League games and follow the plan he set for two veteran right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O'Day.

Instead, the Orioles kept Britton out until March 14 when he allowed two runs on four hits in an inning against Tampa Bay. Britton was upset after that game, but he followed it with a scoreless inning on March 17 against Pittsburgh.

The oblique issues are long gone, Britton said.

"Well, the second one was a lot better than the first one. That's a good sign," Britton said. "No more symptoms of that, nothing's creeped back or anything. I feel really good now. I can just focus on getting ready for the season. I feel pretty good with where I'm at this year compared to where I was last year."

Britton followed the two innings with a minor league game Monday where he struck out the side on 12 pitches.

His schedule is set for the rest of spring. On Wednesday, Britton will pitch an inning against Tampa Bay, and after a few days off, he'll pitch on consecutive days.

"I'm pretty close. As a reliever now, it only takes a few innings., Britton said. "It kind of clicks for you one day, and then you're ready for the season to start where as a starter you've got to build up those innings, and I don't need to do that anymore."

In 2016, Britton had a marvelous season. After giving up his third earned run of the year on April 30, Britton went nearly four months – until Aug. 24 when he allowed his fourth and final run.

"A historical year," Showalter said. "I don't think you'll ever see another year like that."

The Orioles ended that year with Britton famously sitting in the bullpen when the Toronto Blue Jays won the American League wild-card game last October.

Early in spring training, Britton was the most popular interview subject in the clubhouse, but now the attention has gone elsewhere.

"A lot of people want to ask me about the wild-card game, and I think you guys have all covered it. I don't know how much more you can say on that, but everyone wants to talk about it and bring it up when they come in," Britton said. "There are other storylines in here that were a little more interesting, I think."

MORE ORIOLES: Adam Jones beats Colombia with a walk-off in World Baseball Classic

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Wade Miley roughed up again, Orioles shut out in St. Pete

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USA Today Sports

Wade Miley roughed up again, Orioles shut out in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison homered Friday night and the Tampa Bay Rays clinched third place in the AL East with a 7-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Longoria led off the fifth with his 20th homer off Baltimore starter Wade Miley, marking Longoria's fifth straight 20-homer season and the ninth of his 10-year career.

RELATED: WILD CARD RACES WITH THREE DAYS REMAINING

Morrison hit his 38th homer off reliever Chris Tillman in the seventh.

Rays starter Jake Odorizzi left his final start of the season after four innings with a sore right knee.

Brad Boxberger (4-4) got the win as the first of four Tampa Bay relievers.

Miley (8-15) lost his fifth straight start, giving up four runs and five hits in four innings. He walked five, raising his major league-leading total to 93. The Baltimore bullpen gave up five more walks.

Trey Mancini had one of Baltimore's four hits. It was Mancini's 158th hit, tying Cal Ripken (1982) for second-place all-time among Oriole rookies.

The Orioles, shut out for the 11th time, lost for the 17th time in 21 games and dropped three games behind Tampa Bay with two games left in the season.

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MLB Wild Card Standings: Projecting the standings with three days left

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USA TODAY Sports

MLB Wild Card Standings: Projecting the standings with three days left

With the MLB postseason only five days away and three more days in the regular season the playoff field is almost set.

After Thursday night’s action, the St. Louis Cardinals were eliminated from the second Wild Card spot in the National League. Their 2-1 loss to the Cubs put them too far out of reach of the Rockies.

In the American League the AL East race is all but done after the Yankees lost on Thursday.

RELATED: NEW MLB BRACKET PROJECTION WITH ONE WEEK TO GO

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Not too many changes in the American League race after yesterday.

The New York Yankees (89-70) lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6 at home after entering the day only three games back in the division. While the Boston Red Sox (92-67) lost too, three games to surpass is too much for even the Bronx Bombers to overcome.

It will be interesting though to watch both teams sweat. Boston hosts the Houston Astros who are trying to overtake the Indians for the top seed in the AL. New York hosts division rivals Toronto.

The Minnesota Twins (83-76) lost to the Indians after allowing 10 hits in the contest. Win or lose it does not matter how they end the season because they will be the No. 5 seed and the visitors in the American League Wild Card Game. Presumably it will be against the Yankees.

AL WILD CARD RACE (AS OF SEPT 29):

New York Yankees:     +6.0 
Minnesota Twins:           ---
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Colorado was off on Thursday night in preparation for their final series of the year against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Milwaukee Brewers (84-75) did manage to gain a half game with their nail biting 4-3 win over the Reds. Brett Phillips hit a go-ahead double in the sixth inning and the final three frames remained scoreless for both squads.

They now move to two games back of the Colorado Rockies (86-73) with three games to go.

Colorado will host their final series against the Dodgers. Milwaukee is traveling to the St. Louis Cardinals (82-77) for their final three games. St. Louis is now out of contention, four games out of the final Wild Card spot.

FanGraphs.com now has Colorado at a 93.3 percent chance of taking the final postseason spot.  Milwaukee moved up slightly to 6.7 percent.

MORE NATS: WALK-OFF FOR THE NATS, COURTESY OF DE AZA

NL WILD CARD RACE (AS OF SEPT 29):

#4 Arizona Diamondbacks:  +6.0
Colorado Rockies:                   ---
Milwaukee Brewers:              -2.0