NEW YORK - It's a situation that manager Buck Showalter would sign up for in blood, to use one of his favorite expressions.
The Orioles take a slim lead into the ninth inning tonight. Does Jim Johnson close Game 4 of the American League Division Series?
Johnson threw 22 pitches last night, a fairly low total considering that he worked two innings. He's been kept busy lately, saving an Oct. 2 victory against the Rays, pitching the ninth inning in Friday's wild card game, losing Game 1 of Sunday's Division Series, saving Game 2 on Monday and blowing the save in Game 3 last night.
If Darren O'Day has become Darren O'Every Day, Jim Johnson has become Jim Almost-Every-Day Johnson, which isn't nearly as clever. We'll work on it.
Showalter won't shy away from using Johnson. He's all in tonight. Starter Joe Saunders will be on a short leash again. Steve Johnson began to warm up after Saunders faced two batters in the wild card game. And Showalter will empty the bullpen if necessary.
It's win or go home. Do or die. Advance to Game 5 or Amtrak to Baltimore.
One emotional fan last night suggested that the Orioles need to find a "real closer" over the winter. They already have one. Johnson is a real closer. Nothing that's happened in the Division Series should blur that reality.
Johnson isn't folding under pressure. He's been closing out one-run games on the road against division opponents all season. That's pressure. He didn't spot Raul Ibanez on the on-deck circle last night and hyperventilate. He just made a bad pitch. Didn't locate it. And a veteran hitter with pop mashed it. Pure and simple.