As Steve Johnson walked off the mound tonight after the top of the sixth inning, he had no idea whether he would come back out for the seventh. Manager Buck Showalter considered it - the sentimental side nudging at him - but he didn’t want Johnson having another “up” and reliever Troy Patton perhaps entering an inning that wasn’t clean.
The night was a huge success anyway. No need to add to it.
Johnson picked up his first major league win exactly 23 years after his father, Dave, did the same thing for the Orioles.
“That’s just weird, to be honest with you,” Johnson said following the Orioles’ 9-2 win that completed a sweep of the Mariners. “I mean, it’s great, it’s pretty cool. It’s something we’ll be able to talk about for a while. When I heard that, I thought, ‘No pressure, right?’ But I was fortunate they scored a lot of runs for me today, so it was easy.”
Johnson made it look easy in the first inning by striking out the side and throwing all 12 pitches for strikes.
“It was a good first inning, to get that out of the way. Actually throw pretty well and get those strikeouts,” he said. “It was a nice way to start if off. It calmed me down a little bit.”
The second inning was tense. The Mariners loaded the bases with one out, but Johnson escaped the jam.
“That was a tough one,” he said. “Rushed myself a little bit when I got in the stretch and I was just fortunate that I was able to get a first-pitch pop out.”
There was a modest crowd at Camden Yards tonight, and it was filled with Johnson’s family, friends and St. Paul’s classmates.
“It was great and it was unbelievable,” he said. “Words really can’t explain. I know a lot of people texted me and said they were coming. A lot of people from my high school and people I went to high school with. It was great.”
Johnson never appeared nervous, perhaps because he already had pitched here once with the Orioles earlier this season in a two-inning relief stint against the Tigers.
“My first appearance, my heart was throbbing pretty good,” he said. “To start the game today, I was pretty calm. I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting to have the same feeling, but it was a little better.”
Johnson had work to do, but he also wanted to take in the moment as often as possible without losing focus.
“I looked around a lot and just tried to enjoy it a little bit, more than I did last time,” he said. “I was out there for more innings, so it was a little easier each inning to give a couple looks around. It was a lot of fun.”
Naturally, Johnson was asked about the nine strikeouts, a total that his father never reached.
“He’s always told me I’ve been able to strike more people out, but I always tell him he was able to go longer in the game,” Johnson said.
Dave Johnson sat in the stands for half of the game before preparing for WBAL Radio’s postgame show.
“It’s something I was thinking about for a long time. Get my first win and have him here,” said Steve Johnson. “And the way those days worked out, 23 years to the day, it’s just special. It’s all I can really say about it. It means a lot to me.”
“I was out of commission for a little bit and when I turned around, there was no one there,” he said.
Showalter spoke briefly with Johnson, but the rookie’s a little fuzzy with the details.
“He told me good game, and I actually don’t remember too much, to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “I feel bad saying that, but there was a lot of stuff going through my mind.”
Minor league note: The Orioles are promoting Dylan Bundy to Double-A Bowie, and he could make his Eastern League debut on Tuesday.
My guess is Steve Melewski will have lots more details on his MASNsports.com blog once he’s off the airwaves at 105.7 The Fan.