ATLANTA—Zach Britton returned to the dugout after the first home run by an Orioles pitcher in five seasons and found no one ready to celebrate.
Britton, who drove Brandon Beachy's 2-1 pitch in the third inning just over the right-field wall, was given the silent treatment by his Orioles teammates, a baseball tradition often reserved for players who don't usually hit home runs.
"I had no idea what was going on," said Britton, who got a no-decision in the Orioles' much-needed 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. "I didn't even know that they were giving me the silent treatment. But I kind of figured it's a good gesture."
Britton was finally tipped off when he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, first baseman Derrek Lee sporting a sly grin. Britton was then mobbed by his teammates, an appropriate reception after the young lefty became the first Orioles pitcher to hit a home run since Kris Benson connected for a solo shot off New York Mets right-hander Pedro Martinez on June 17, 2006.
"It kind of [ticks] you off as a position player to watch pitchers go up there and throw out hits like it's nothing, you know," said Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds, whose two-run shot in the seventh inning was the game-winner. "They don't even work on it, but no, it's good. He helped his own cause. He was on base twice. [We] got to teach him to run the bases."
Reynolds was referring to the fifth inning, when Britton appeared to hurt himself while legging out an infield single. He stayed in the game and scored the Orioles' third run on Nick Markakis' double.
Britton, who was an accomplished outfielder while in high school, struck out in his third at-bat, but he got the ultimate sign of respect when former Oriole George Sherrill fed him a steady diet of breaking balls.
Britton finished interleague play with five hits in eight at-bats, the most hits by an American League pitcher this season.
Same bat, different results
Orioles designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero hasn't been very productive lately, but his bats are working wonders for Markakis. The Orioles right fielder started using Guerrero's bats, which are heavier than what Markakis usually uses, about three weeks ago, and that has coincided with the one of the better stretches of his career.
Markakis went a career-best 5-for-5 with an RBI double Sunday, and he was 8-for-10 with a homer, a double and two RBIs in the final two games of the series. That two-game stretch came after Markakis went 0-for-4 in Friday's series-opening loss to Atlanta, ending his career-best 19-game hitting streak.
"I feel a lot better than I did, there's no question about it," said Markakis, who has raised his average from .236 on June 7 to his .296. "It's just a comfort thing, getting in a comfortable position up there and not missing the pitch when you get it."
Markakis, who said he started using Guerrero's bats to try to add a little more pop to his swing, is 44-for-101 (.436) in his past 21 games.
His five hits Sunday were part of a terrific all-around game for the veteran outfielder. He made a key defensive play in the seventh inning, fielding a ball cleanly off the top of the wall and throwing out Brian McCann, who was trying to stretch a single into a double. He also stole a base in the ninth, giving him seven for the season, matching his total from last year.
Sherrill still pulls for O's
It has been almost two years since the Orioles traded Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league third baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Steve Johnson (St. Paul's), and many of Sherrill's former teammates have moved on, just as he did. However, Sherrill, a left-handed specialist in the Braves' bullpen, acknowledges that he still pulls for his former club.
"I definitely still root for them," said Sherrill, who threw a scoreless inning against his former team Sunday and has a 2.49 ERA in 32 appearances during his first season with the Braves. Left-handed hitters are 16-for-48 (.333) against him. "It is an organization that I have a fondness for just because they did give me a shot at closing, and that jump-started my career, I guess. Seattle was the place that gave me my start in the big leagues, but Baltimore is the place that gave me a chance to end some games, and that got me started."
The Orioles acquired Sherrill and four other players, including center fielder Adam Jones, as part of the February 2008 deal that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners. Sherrill was installed as the Orioles' closer, and he saved 51 games during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He made the All-Star team in 2008, and his high-wire act in the ninth inning immediately made him a Camden Yards favorite.
"It meant a lot that the fans reacted the way they did when I came into games," he said, calling his season and a half in Baltimore and going to the playoffs with the Dodgers the highlights of his career.
Around the horn
Showalter wasn't ready to announce his starter for Tuesday's game against the Texas Rangers, but he did confirm that either long man Alfredo Simon or Triple-A Norfolk starter Mitch Atkins would get the assignment. … Reynolds hit cleanup for the first time this season. … With Nolan Reimold on the bench for a third consecutive game, Luke Scott started and went 0-for-3 with a walk, finishing 0-for-9 in the series. … Reliever Clay Rapada accepted his assignment to Norfolk. … Bell aggravated a left knee injury Saturday and is considered day-to-day. … Single-A Frederick right-hander Oliver Drake (Navy) is making a strong bid for a promotion. He pitched 81/3 shutout innings Saturday against Kinston and has thrown 171/3 scoreless innings over his past two starts, allowing just six hits and three walks while striking out 10.
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