Closing time: Jim Johnson nearing Randy Myers' record (Hoes to Triple-A)

Jim Johnson has been one of baseball's best closers this year - now if the Orioles can just give him a save opportunity.

Johnson, who is 16-for-16 this year in saves, has not recorded a save since May 22 and that was eight games ago. The O's 2-8 slide has taken their bullpen out of play some nights in that they haven't had a late lead to protect.

Johnson is having an All-Star caliber year with a 0.84 ERA. In 21 1/3 innings he has given up just 13 hits with four walks and 14 strikeouts. American League batters are hitting just .173 off Johnson and his ground-to-air out ratio is a very impressive 3.08.

He has now saved 24 straight games dating to last August 14. He is chasing the club record of 34 in a row set by Randy Myers during the 1997 wire-to-wire first place season.

To say the least, Johnson has grown into the closer's role for sure.

"I am fine with it," Johnson said recently of the bullpen pitchers, deflecting attention away from himself. "Getting used to it. There is a lot of depth here and guys are feeding off it and pushing each other."

But Johnson does admit that, while you need to get just three outs in the ninth like in any other inning, closing is not for everyone and some pitchers just don't seem to thrive in that spot. Johnson has this year.

"Well, there is more pressure in the ninth," Johnson said. "That is about it. It still is three outs, but mistakes are magnified, you know. It's more of a mental grind, I think, in the ninth, than in the eighth but if you've been in those situations before, you should be able to get used to it."

Johnson said the depth is the key to the success of the O's bullpen but now they need the starters to get deeper into games to give them a chance to succeed.

Johnson is one of the longest-tenured Orioles, so he's been around for a lot of losing. The recent tough stretch aside, he's enjoying life at or near the top of the standings.

"So far, it's a reward for all the hard work we've put in," he said. "I'm enjoying it, but I'm not satisfied. I think the guys knew coming in that this would be a grind for the whole season and we are up to the task."

Hoes to the Tides: I have heard this afternoon that the Orioles are moving outfielder LJ Hoes from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Hoes is batting .265 with two homers, 16 RBIs, 12 steals and an OPS of .741 with Bowie. He is batting .298 against right-handed pitching. Hoes played right field for Bowie last night and we could see him play some in right for Norfolk.

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