BALTIMORE -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter acknowledged on Friday afternoon that there are still a lot of unknowns about rookie pitcher Zach Britton, who made just one career Major League start heading into Saturday's game.
But by the time Britton exited the first game of the doubleheader to a rousing standing ovation, everyone at Camden Yards knew this: the 23-year-old lefty can flat-out pitch.
Just ask the Texas Rangers, the defending American League champions who had been unbeatable in 2011. Texas cruised to a 6-0 start courtesy of a red-hot offense that averaged seven runs per game. Britton, a product of Weatherford, Texas, held the Rangers scoreless over 7 2/3 innings showcasing his trademark sinker.
The result was his second Major League win in as many tries and a series-opening 5-0 victory for the first-place Orioles, who entered the second half of Saturday's doubleheader at 6-1. The Orioles dropped the nightcap, 13-1.
"He kept us off the fat part of the bat," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Britton, who said he got goose bumps from the support of the Orioles' faithful at several points during the game. "You have to give him credit. He did a good job for a young kid."
What Britton has done since he was promoted to Baltimore has been nothing short of extraordinary. Coupled with Sunday's win against the Rays, Britton has allowed one earned run in his first 13 2/3 Major League innings, giving up seven hits and six walks and picking up eight strikeouts along the way.
With a depleted bullpen corps, the pressure was on Britton to give the Orioles a quality outing in his first career start at Camden Yards. That he did it against the red-hot Rangers, was secondary but significant.
"It doesn't really matter who we are facing," Britton said. "My job today was to go out there and give us a lot of innings because we have a doubleheader. ... Go as deep as I can. And that's what my mindset was. Just keep us in the game and log innings."
Britton delivered on all counts, stranding five leadoff men and getting the Rangers to ground into three double plays to stop any hints of an offensive rally.
"I'm happy we won," said Britton, who pointed out that he wasn't happy he left a pair of runners on for reliever Jason Berken to inherit.
"I think we showed we can compete with a good team. We played really good baseball today, and that's what this is all about, playing good baseball," he added. "What I did was just icing on the cake."
The Orioles' offense gave Britton plenty of support. Nick Markakis got the Orioles on the board initially, sending Colby Lewis' 0-1 pitch over the right-field scoreboard for his first homer of the year in the first inning. Newcomer Mark Reynolds hit his first homer in a Baltimore uniform in the second inning. Reynolds' three-run blast off Lewis traveled an estimated 422 feet and gave the O's a four-run cushion. Adam Jones added an RBI single in the third, and Lewis exited after six innings.
After retiring six straight to start the game, Britton issued a leadoff walk to Mike Napoli but retired Yorvit Torrealba on a flyout and struck out Julio Borbon. Britton finished the inning by sitting leadoff-man Ian Kinsler down looking at a called third strike, a 95-mph sinker that left Kinsler stunned and shaking his head as he walked away.
Torrealba was the only Ranger to manage an extra-base hit off Britton, opening the sixth with a double to left-center field. He advanced to third on a groundout, and Britton held him there, thanks to some great defense from Derrek Lee, who snagged Kinsler's liner for the inning's second out. Britton, a ground-ball specialist, got Elvis Andrus to do just that to end the frame.
Britton allowed four hits and three walks in the 103-pitch outing, striking out two.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.