Taking a closer look at Jim Johnson

Before we point too many fingers at reliever Jim Johnson for causing last night’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers, it’s important to note that the Orioles went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. And three kids. And a dog and cat. Also a hamster.

Two solo home runs won’t usually get you a victory in Texas.

Hitting in the clutch hasn’t been this team’s strength. And that observation most likely will be the biggest understatement that you encounter today.

Getting back to Johnson, he allowed three runs (two earned) and two hits in one inning. He walked two batters and they both scored.

Johnson gave up a run and three hits over two innings in his last outing on Sunday.

I’m not suggesting that he’s wearing down. Johnson, I’m sure, would be the first to dispute it. But he’s gone more than one inning in 10 of his last 17 appearances. He’s pitched in 38 games totaling 50 1/3 innings.

Manager Buck Showalter leans heavily on Johnson for a few reasons.

Here’s one: He’s been very, very, good.

Here’s another: Showalter has to be much more careful with Koji Uehara, which keeps Johnson busy.

Here’s another: Showalter has been able to trust Johnson more than Michael Gonzalez. And more than Clay Rapada before he was designated for assignment. And more than Jason Berken, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk before returning to the club.

Showalter could go easy on his bullpen If his starters were completing seven or eight innings. As it is, Johnson probably jumps out of his seat and grabs his glove every time his house phone rings.

Johnson was limited to 26 appearances and 26 1/3 innings last year because of an elbow injury. He’s blown past both of those marks in 2011.

Did you know that Johnson has surrendered hits in 11 straight appearances? We’ve obsessed over Kevin Gregg’s inability to turn in a clean inning. Johnson can be filthy, too - though it’s also because of the heavy sink on his fastball.

Anyway, the All-Star break might be coming at a good time for Johnson. Let the man catch his breath and recharge his battery, if it’s possible to perform both acts at the same time.

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