To win tonight, O's will likely need 'pen to be good again

If the Orioles can get past Texas tonight and into a five-game series, that might be where one of their strengths - their bullpen - can really help the team.

This unit has been sensational this year and is a big reason the club is so outstanding in one-run and extra-inning games. In the playoffs, it often seems that teams with deep bullpens do well.

The Orioles have a deep and talented bullpen, and given a chance to show his mastery at using it, I would expect Buck Showalter to put the right players in the right spots as he has most of this year.

O's Bullpen Dugout Wide.jpgThat 'pen could come up big again tonight. Who knows how often the Orioles will make the call to the bullpen against Texas? But that run you keep from scoring in the fifth, sixth, seventh inning or later could be the difference-maker. The save comes only with the final three outs, but the key out or outs can often come long before that.

Here is how some of those relievers have been doing:

* Luis Ayala has an ERA of 1.56 over his last 17 games.

* Tommy Hunter, since his recall from the minors Sept. 3, is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.71 in 10 appearances.

* Steve Johnson is 1-0 with an ERA of 1.10 in eight relief appearances with 21 strikeouts and a .127 average against over 16 1/3 innings.

* Brian Matusz has an ERA of 1.35 over 18 bullpen appearances since his recall from the minors Aug. 24. He has fanned 19 over 13 1/3 innings and kept all 14 inherited runners from scoring.

* Darren O'Day has an ERA of 1.53 his last 20 games and has gotten too many big outs the last few weeks to mention. He's been huge for this team down the stretch.

* Troy Patton has recorded 22 consecutive scoreless outings covering 17 innings. He was missed while on the DL, but they are glad he's back.

* Jim Johnson is almost in a separate category with a major league-leading 51 saves. Only one other pitcher had more than 42 saves this season and that was Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney with 48.

Since suffering his third blown save July 27 versus Oakland, Johnson has saved 21 in a row. In that time, he has an ERA of 0.36 over 26 games. He is 20-for-21 in saves this year against the American League East. Yes, he's been sensational. He's also one of the team leaders.

The Rangers have scored more runs this year than any team in the majors and that is with their offense slowing up a bit in the last month or so.

For however many innings they are called on tonight, if that 'pen comes up big again the Orioles just may be playing at Camden Yards on Sunday.

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