The Orioles got their weekend series in Boston off to a great start with Friday’s hard-earned, 13-inning win. There were a lot of heroes but this morning I’ll cite two pitchers who impressed me again on Friday.
First, Wei-Yin Chen. It was far from his best outing, as he gave up four runs in five innings, and it was just the second time in the last 11 games where the Orioles did not have a quality start.
But Chen showed poise once again. After Robert Andino and Mark Reynolds made two-out errors in the last of the first, David Ortiz came up with a chance to give Boston the early lead. He entered the game batting .391 with six homers and 21 RBIs. He was hitting .488 at home and was 13-for-29 against left-handed pitching.
But Chen didn’t get unnerved by the errors and got Big Papi to ground out to end that threat. Two innings later he got him out again, but this time his groundout scored a run. Chen will have better games than he had last night, but he showed that he is not afraid to pitch against the Yankees or Red Sox and there is some toughness there that I like.
Meanwhile, Jim Johnson capped another great night for the Orioles’ bullpen by pitching a 1-2-3 last of the 13th inning on 13 pitches. Johnson rolled quickly through three hitters and made sure Boston didn’t get any rally at all going againt him.
He has been perfect this year in save chances - going eight-for-eight - and he has now recorded 16 straight saves. On the year, Johnson has pitched 10 2/3 scoreless on just six hits. Opponent batters have just a .162 average against him and he has a 3.00 ground-to-air out ratio with that sinker.
Left-handed batters are 4-for-19 against him while right-handed hitters are 2-for-19. When pitching with runners in scoring position, all batters are 0-for-9 against him on the year.
There has been little drama this year when the Orioles have a late lead and Johnson has clearly settled into the closer’s role. It is nice to not see any blown saves and for the Orioles to get the win when they have done enough to get it and just need three more outs. Those can be the toughest to get, but so far this year, not for Johnson.