When it was over, reporters wanted to talk to Jim Johnson. He has been a big part of the Orioles now winning 100 consecutive regular season games when leading after seven innings, even if he was not even aware of the streak that is now at triple digits.
“I didn’t know honestly,” Johnson said after recording his eighth save in eight tries. “But obviously it means guys are throwing the ball well in the bullpen and getting put in good opportunities and doing what they are supposed to do.”
Johnson closed out the O’s 4-3 win over the Blue Jays, which moved the club four games over .500 for the first time at 12-8.
The streak is the second-longest for any club during the expansion era (since 1961), trailing just the 1998-99 Yankees at 116 games. The last loss for the Orioles in such a game was Aug. 8, 2011.
“If you look at the date, that is pretty much when things started to turn around here. Kind of point to that as maybe a beginning,” Johnson said.
“It’s all of us (in the bullpen). The seventh- and eighth-inning guys, too, like Darren (O’Day) and Stropy (Pedro Strop), we all want the ball. I think that is the big key, we want (the starters) to get it to a certain point and then we want the ball.”
The Orioles improved to an important 9-5 against the AL East with this victory.
“We know who we have to beat. The way the wild card and the playoff structure is, the importance is winning your division,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of good teams, we know each other and have to win as many as we can.”
Johnson has now converted his last 29 straight save chances and leads the majors with 66 saves since Sept. 7, 2011.
Miguel Gonzalez took a shutout into the sixth before allowing a three-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion. He gave up three runs and five hits over six innings, throwing 93 pitches.
“Felt pretty good about it,” Gonzalez said. “Me and Rick Adair worked between starts with my balance and staying back and not flying open. Felt good for those first five innings keeping guys off balance. Need to eliminate those walks and we’ll be fine. All our starters are struggling with that.”
Rolling along through 5 2/3 frames, Gonzalez then issued back-to-back walks and the three-run homer.
“Instead of staying on my toes, I was on my heels some in that sixth inning,” he said. “That is why I was flying open a bit, balls were up. Was trying to do too much, but good thing we got the win. We got (R.A.) Dickey early on, tough versus that knuckleball.”
Gonzalez said he tried to get ahead of Encarnacion after the walks and a pitch up in the zone found the middle of the plate.
Still, Gonzalez is now 8-3 with an ERA of 3.69 in 14 career starts against the AL East and the Orioles are 14-5 in his 19 career starts.
Manny Machado had a big two-run single as part of the O’s four-run second inning against Dickey. Machado said some of the O’s hitters tried to shorten their swings a bit against Dickey’s knuckleball pitches.
“Yeah, you can’t try to get too long with this guy,” Machado said. “If you do, there is no chance you’ll hit that ball. Tough, you know. A Cy Young winner from last year. We are starting to play some really good baseball now.”
I’ll leave you with this stat: The Orioles are now 3-0 in games this season when the opposing starter won a Cy Young Award last year. They have scored 21 runs in the three wins in games started by Dickey and Tampa Bay’s David Price.