Jim Johnson loaded the bases with two outs in Friday night’s wild card game before nailing down a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. He allowed five runs, four earned, in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the American League Division Series, turning a 2-2 tie into a 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
By Johnson’s standards, I guess this qualified as a slump. The guy hadn’t permitted a run in the regular season since Sept. 8. He had been scored upon once in 26 appearances going into the playoffs.
Manager Buck Showalter had no reservations about handing the ball to his closer last night with the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead. Maybe a save situation was exactly what Johnson needed.
Three up, three down.
Not a single player inside the Orioles’ clubhouse questioned whether Johnson would come through for them.
“That’s what we’ve seen all year,” said catcher Matt Wieters. “We knew that was what we were going to get again, and he was good tonight. He was down in the zone, good sinker, getting ground balls.”
Johnson retired Derek Jeter leading off the ninth on one pitch. That was encouraging. He threw 12 pitches, eight of them for strikes.
Seeing Johnson bounce back was “normal,” said left fielder Nate McLouth.
“That’s what we expected,” McLouth said. “He was missing location last night, something he rarely does. He’s got no fear. I don’t think any of us doubted that he would have that result tonight.”
Fortunately, I don’t fear the BWI train station or the Bronx, because I’m headed back there this morning.
The Orioles will work out from 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. The Yankees aren’t working out.