“That was huge because that was the game right there,” Strop said afterward. “I’ve been struggling lately and that’s good to have some confidence back, and I feel even better because I gave my team the opportunity to win. Who knows? We might be playing still. But I feel pretty good. Like I said before, all those innings that I pitched before, I felt good. … The result was just wasn’t the one we wanted.”
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After Brian Matusz, who pitched a perfect seventh inning, walked the leadoff man in the eighth, Orioles manager Buck Showalter called on Strop – who had allowed four runs over his past three appearances.
Strop fielded a sacrifice bunt from pinch hitter Rajai Davis and threw to first for the first out, then he got slugger Jose Bautista out on a grounder to short, sending the tying potential run to third.
But it was Strop’s strikeout of Melky Cabrera on a full-count high fastball that might have been the most clutch moment of the night. It helped preserve the Orioles’ 100th straight regular-season win when leading after the completion of seven innings.
“All this [stuff] and all the things that have been happening to me, and I still have my confidence because I’m honest with myself and I know that I’m making good pitches,” Strop said. “If I was making bad pitches and didn’t have my stuff, I might be worried and maybe my confidence would be down, but my confidence is up because I know I’m making good pitches. When the starting pitchers say that when the game is in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning that it’s over, that means you can trust in your stuff.”
Strop, who was a huge part of the bullpen’s success last season before hitting a rough spot in the final two months of the regular season, has had to prove himself again through this first first weeks of this season. But, just like last season, the Orioles are winning close games – they’ve won four straight one-run games after starting 0-3 – and dominating division opponents (they’ve won four of five series against AL East foes).
“I don’t like to talk a lot about last year, because last year has already passed, but last year in the beginning people started saying it was good luck or whatever,” Strop said. “People kept saying it was just one season, so we want to want to prove whoever’s saying that wrong. We want to compete this year, too, and get even farther, not just the playoffs, but make it to the World Series and compete. That’s what makes us better, trying to prove people wrongm and I think that’s a big thing for us.”