Three days ago, Jim Johnson began to warm in the Orioles’ bullpen in a possible save situation. Chris Davis hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, Johnson sat down and Josh Stinson worked the ninth.
The following night, Johnson began to warm as the Orioles attempted to overcome a one-run deficit in the eighth. They couldn’t do it, and Johnson sat down again.
It would seem that Johnson remains the Orioles closer despite appearing in a non-save situation last night. He needed the work and manager Buck Showalter wanted to avoid using other relievers.
Not sure if the three straight singles and the two inherited runners that scored changed Showalter’s thinking. Probably not.
Showalter did mention last night how he resisted bringing in Johnson to start the ninth because he may have needed the right-hander to pitch more than one inning.
“He was the one guy that could’ve given us multiple innings down there,” Showalter said.
Stretching him out to be a starter? OK, I’m kidding.
Johnson has blown his last three save opportunities. He had allowed a run in each of his last four appearances, setting a career high, before last night.
Showalter was asked yesterday afternoon about the importance of giving Johnson another chance to protect a slim lead in the final inning and put those failures behind him.
“I think it’s more game-dictated now,” Showalter said. “There’s not a whole lot going to change. He’s pretty strong mentally. I think it’s more a physical thing right now.”
At this point, Showalter would welcome a save opportunity. The Rays haven’t given the Orioles a chance for one.
Showalter also was asked yesterday if he pulls aside a player such as Adam Jones and discusses - in whatever tone - a poor at-bat, one that might end with his player chasing a pitch well out of the strike zone in a key situation.
“Oh yeah, every day,” Showalter replied. “It’s all about the presentation, too. We’re around each other so much and you don’t want to browbeat somebody. A lot of it falls underneath the, ‘You don’t think I know that?’
“Nobody internalizes it more than someone like Nick Markakis. He wants to drive in every run. Don’t think for a second that... It may not be on their sleeve, whether it’s the hitting coach or bench coach or manager, but everybody’s grinding it. Believe me. But you’re trying to stay away from it being something that is just... You’ve got to throw the positives out there, too. And when it turns, it usually snowballs the other way.
“You’ve got to be careful about how you address it and how often you do it. Sometimes, it gets borderline where they don’t want to hear it. They’ve got it. They’ve got it. There’s a trust factor, too. It’s a slippery slope. Don’t ever think someone not screaming and throwing... I hear the stuff that goes on down the runway. You all don’t. I see it, the shrapnel flying and whatever. Unfortunately, in today’s sports world, people make a big show and story of that, so guys have learned over the years, they usually try to take it somewhere else. Why do they take it somewhere else? So they don’t have to answer those questions. We know the locker room is more than a locker room these days.”
J.J. Hardy has hit safely in 13 of his 14 games this month, batting .327 (18-for-55) with a double, four homers and seven RBIs.
In his last five games at Camden Yards since Aug. 2, Ryan Flaherty is batting .389 (7-for-18) with two doubles, a home run, two RBIs, two runs scored, a walk and a hit by pitch.
Markakis’ streak of not collecting an extra-base hit has reached 28 games since July 20.
Nate McLouth went 0-for-5 last night and is 0-for-17 since hitting a leadoff homer off Colorado’s Juan Nicasio on Aug. 16.
McLouth is 5-for-19 with two doubles and a triple lifetime against Jeremy Hellickson, who’s starting tonight for the Rays.
Davis is 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, a homer and eight RBIs against Hellickson. Jones is 12-for-38 (.316) with a double and three homers.
The Orioles’ three second basemen - Flaherty, Brian Roberts and Alexi Casilla - are a combined 1-for-30 against Hellickson. Roberts has the only hit.
The Orioles were 12-2 in Miguel Gonzalez’s first 14 career home starts, but they’ve lost his last two. Gonzalez is one team win shy of Wally Bunker (1963-64) for the most in club history through 16 home starts.
Though he stranded two last night, T.J. McFarland has allowed inherited runners to score at the highest rate (13-of-23, 56.5 percent) among 91 major league relievers with at least 20 inherited runners this season.