Jim Johnson on tying Randy Myers’ consecutive saves record and more

Getting Jim Johnson to talk about himself at any length may be harder than trying to hit Jim Johnson, who tonight tied the Orioles’ club record with his 34th straight save.

But in a rare moment for him, Johnson was asked about his pitching tonight and his evolution into a top closer. He is better at the job now, he feels, than he was when he first got the ball in the ninth.

“I think it is more about knowing what kind of pitcher you are,” Johnson said. “I do it differently than other people. When I first started, I tried to be something I wasn’t. Tried to be a typical closer and strike guys out all the time and that is not who I am. Then I reverted back to pitching how I normally do and good results followed.”

The latest case of that was tonight as Johnson equaled Randy Myers’ team record of 34 consecutive saves set in 1997. This year, opponents are batting just .197 against the right-hander.

“It’s good, obviously (tying that record), but that is a secondary goal and obviously winning the game is the first objective,” Johnson said.

Johnson was asked what makes him so good now as a closer.

“I don’t know. I try to be aggressive and force contact. That’s about it. Those are my secrets,” he said.

“I’d rather you visit me when good stuff happens than if I tank it and you guys will show up. Yeah, it’s great, just trying to keep things going. Look at everyone else in here and how they are playing right now. Just trying to keep that up.”

On the year, Johnson is 1-2 with an ERA of 1.00 and 13 saves.

He said because he tries to pitch to contact, his defense has been important and typically, he gave a longer answer when talking about other players.

“I use them a lot and I plan on doing it that way,” he said. “Look at our defense across the board. We have three Gold Glovers in the outfield. We have J.J. (Hardy), Gold Glover at short, and (Matt) Wieters behind the plate. Manny (Machado) potentially in the future, (Ryan) Flaherty and (Chris Davis) have been doing great. Those are all capable, high-end gloves in the infield and outfield.”

The Orioles improved to 21-13 tonight and a season-best eight games over .500. They own baseball’s best record since last July 29 at 62-33 (.653).

“It is very similar to last year,” Johnson said. “I feel we haven’t lost a step from where we finished last season. But we are still getting better in certain areas. I think now that we are past that first month, guys are getting a good feel for what is going on and what is expected of them. All 25 are pulling in the same direction.”

Winning pitcher Chris Tillman threw four shutout innings before allowing homers in the fifth and sixth. He improved to 3-1 with an ERA of 3.76. He wasn’t thrilled with his outing.

“It was OK. I had to battle through some things and my stuff wasn’t where it should be,” he said. “I had to throw all my pitches tonight and was able to get to the fifth and sixth and made some bad pitches there. It was a battle just to get there.”

The first homer he gave up ended a 15-inning scoreless run for Tillman, who is 3-0 with an ERA of 2.03 over his past four starts.

J.J Hardy hit a two-run homer in the second inning. After batting .188 over the first 29 games, he is batting .389 over his last five.

“I feel better. I’ve been grinding. I still could be more comfortable, but I’ll take tonight’s results for sure,” he said.

Hardy was asked if the O’s have more weapons on offense this year.

“If you mean like running bases and stealing, I think so,” he said. “Anytime Nate (McLouth) gets on base, you feel like he is going to second. Manny is running. That makes for more weapons, yeah. When you are playing defense and guys are threats to steal, that puts more pressure on you.”

Freddy Garcia will take the mound for the Orioles tomorrow night as they go for their first series sweep of the season.

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