To no one’s surprise, the Orioles came to the defense of their closer tonight. They’ve seen Jim Johnson do too many special things for them this year to do anything else. He is one of the team leaders and they were standing behind him tonight after he gave up five runs in the ninth in Game 1 of the ALDS.
“It’s not deflating,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “We have to do a better job getting him the lead. Jim’s been great for us all year and everyone in this clubhouse wants to give him the ball again tomorrow.”
What about the pitch that Russell Martin hit for the leadoff homer that gave New York the 3-2 edge in the ninth?
“Just got behind 2-0 and with Jim’s stuff, we wanted to go after him. Left a ball up and he put a good swing on it,” Wieters said. “Every game is big. Tomorrow we’ll come out with a good game plan and try to get a win.
“We’ll get the home crowd behind us and be ready to go. It was a great crowd and it was fun playing with support like that. It was one loss and we’ll forget about it tonight.”
Wieters was asked about CC Sabathia’s outing.
“He was able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate and mix in his off-speed,” Wieters said. “He made some mistakes tonight, but we just couldn’t get the big hit to drive a run in to get a lead. We just missed some pitches that we needed to get hits on tonight.”
Mark Reynolds said he was certain Johnson will bounce back from tonight’s loss.
“No doubt. I can’t remember him ever having an inning like that,” Reynolds said. “It happens to the best of us and he’s one of the best and he’s going to be all right.
“We’ve not even supposed to be here. We’re playing with house money and we’re going to ride this thing out. They threw their horse tonight and he pitched a great game for them. We’ll battle back. That has been our M.O. all year. We have a bunch of guys that believe we can get this done. It starts with Buck (Showalter) and we’ll bounce back.
“It’s a tough one, but that is why we have five games. We have to get tomorrow’s game at home, before we go up to Yankee Stadium because it will be a hostile environment. You know, great environment tonight. Our fans were really into the game. We couldn’t push across that last run, but you have to tip your hat to them, they got to one of our best pitchers.”
In his first outing since Sept. 11, Jason Hammel gave up two runs and four hits over 5 2/3 innings, although he indicated that he was knocking some rust off in those early innings.
“It took me honestly into the third inning until I felt strong and my timing was there and I felt like I was me again,” he said. “The knee felt great, I was really happy about that. As I got stronger, the command was better and the feel was a lot better also.”
He gave credit to New York hitters for spoiling some good pitches.
“There must have been 25 foul balls tonight,” he said. “They’re veteran guys, they’ve been around and they know the strike zone well. There were some good pitches tonight that they took or just fouled off. That gets you into deep counts and your pitch count up.”
Hammel also felt the Orioles would have no problem bouncing back from a one-game deficit in the series.
“It’s a five-game series. This is one loss,” he said. “You can’t look at it like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re in trouble now.’ We’ll come back and play in front of our fans tomorrow. We wanted to get off to the right start, but it is what it is. We’ll be ready tomorrow.”