Orioles manager Buck Showalter has spoken in the past about how closer Jim Johnson can spoil a team with his lengthy string of successful outings. A glitch comes out of nowhere. It’s never anticipated.
Johnson entered Game 1 of the American League Division Series with the score tied in the top of the ninth. He walked off the mound having retired only one batter, four runs already charged to him and an unearned run coming as he sat in the dugout.
“It’s tough. It’s just tough going, period,” Showalter said. “There’s not much margin for error. Jimmy has been great for us all year and will be again. Tonight just wasn’t his night. Gave up really one hardâ€‘hit ball. (Robinson) Cano had a good swing on a ball away. Credit that one, too. Those things happen.
“It’s real easy to put your faith in a guy like Jim Johnson, not only as a pitcher, but as a man. He’s the reason why we’re out there playing this game tonight, one of the big reasons. Every guy in that clubhouse knows that he’s a special guy. You’d have to be real picky to find something you don’t like about Jim Johnson. We like him wearing our uniform, whatever the statistics or outcome may be. He’s pretty special.”
Jason Hammel, pitching for the first time since Sept. 11, held the Yankees two runs over 5 2/3 innings.
“Jason was great. As good as CC Sabathia was, Jason matched him,” Showalter said.
“We had a great defensive game. (Mark) Reynolds made two great plays at first base. Chris Davis made a couple good plays in the outfield for us. (Matt) Wieters made that play at the plate. You know how difficult it is, but I don’t think ... a catcher’s mitt, too. That’s some kind of play, especially in that situation.
“That’s probably the difference in that ballgame was Jason pitching real well, and I was real proud of him and everybody defensively that kept us in the game. Got away from us a little bit there at the end, though.”
Sabathia came within an out of pitching a complete game.
“Oh, he’s not doing anything out there that impresses us more than what he’s done,” Showalter said. “He’s got a track record of pitching in those games for a long time and doing well, but I was more proud of us matching him. Our guys were doing well. Just took four guys to match him. But you see a pitch count down like that, you know he’s going to be out there for a long time.
“We had our chances. We had some chances there, some good people up that had solid years for us, and it’s more of a tribute to him than any detraction from our guys. I was so proud of our club tonight, the way they competed and played defense and pitched. It was fun to watch.
“He was throwing strikes. The only time you’ve got a shot at a quality guy like him is if his command is a little bit of an issue, and you could tell from the getâ€‘go that he had good command of the baseball and he was around the plate. I said before the game that a lot of people miss how much of a pitcher he is.
“You go back and chart how many fastballs, how many breaking balls, how many changeups, you’d be surprised. Maybe not you all, because you get to see him a lot, but he’s a pitcher. He’s a complete guy. I don’t think it’s necessarily as much us as it was the type of command he had tonight.
“You know, good pitchers make a living out of making pitches appear. ... He can take you off the sweet part of the bat. How many strikeouts did he have tonight? Seven? There weren’t that many for a while. I think we may have struck out more guys, but that’s not an evaluator of what type of stuff a guy is carrying all the time.”
The Orioles have been resilient all season. That quality will be put to the test Monday night in Game 2. They certainly don’t want to head to New York down 0-2 in this series.
“There’s a lot of other things that happen, too. It depends on whether you want to dwell on the negative or the positive,” Showalter said.
“I understand what time of year it is when it’s all goatâ€‘hero time. Our guys get it. This is a very realistic club that lives in reality, but they also understand the sense of urgency. You can sit here and say you got beat by a real good quality pitcher tonight, but that’s why teams like that are playing this time of year. We have good quality pitchers, too.
“I don’t have any doubt what type of mentality our guys will have as we go forward in this series. But that’s another thing, kind of like Jimmy. To me, what our club has gone through this year and the way they’ve responded, that’s a real easy question to answer.”