Beyond ending a losing streak on Saturday, which was pretty important, another aspect of Brian Matusz’s strong start against Tampa Bay was that it brought the Orioles’ late-inning relief back into play.
It had been a while since the team turned to Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson to protect a late lead. But that duo, and the rest of the bullpen, has been doing that about as well as anyone in the American League this year.
In fact, the Orioles are the only AL team that has yet to lose this year when leading after seven and eight innings. The Orioles are 20-0 when they lead after seven and 22-0 when ahead after eight innings. Now, no team loses very often when leading that late in the game, but the Orioles haven’t dropped any games in those spots this year. The other four AL East teams have combined to lose 10 times when leading after seven in 2012.
AL East records when leading after seven innings this year:
* Baltimore 20-0
* Boston 25-4
* New York 24-2
* Tampa Bay 24-1
* Toronto 24-3
Strop, who got a key double play to end the top of the eighth on Saturday, now has an ERA of 1.32 and an opponents’ batting average of .159, including .104 against right-handed hitters.
Johnson has an ERA of 0.78 and a batting average against of .163. He picked up his first save since May 22 yesterday.
If it seems like the Orioles always protect the lead this year with six or fewer outs to go, you are right, and Strop and Johnson have the stats to prove it. O’s fans need just look back to last year to remember a time when the O’s didn’t always get the win when leading with a few outs to go.
Meanwhile, new Oriole Steve Pearce could get his first start today with a left-hander, Matt Moore, starting for Tampa Bay. While Pearce has good numbers overall at Triple-A this year, his power numbers were actually better against southpaws.
He has hit .321 overall with 11 homers, 30 RBIs and an OPS of .996. But Pearce has hit five homers in 58 at-bats versus lefties, and his OPS is 1.040 against them compared to .976 against right-handers.