For the immediate future, I think the Orioles need to make a change with their closer’s role.
I never thought I’d feel this way - not after seeing how good he was last year and most of this year, too - but I don’t think the O’s should use Jim Johnson if there is a save situation on Saturday.
I am not saying Johnson should lose the job for good, but just for now.
He is struggling to throw strikes and keep the ball down in the zone. Until he gets that back, it is just costing this team too many games right now.
The Orioles have now lost seven games when leading after eight innings. They are 40-7 this year when leading after eight. The rest of the AL East is a combined 154-6. There are 10 AL teams with two or fewer losses when leading after eight.
Johnson was so good last season that the Orioles were 75-1 when leading after eight and they were 29-9 in one-run games, but they are 12-13 in such contests this year.
Too many leads are being blown and it’s time to try and stop the bleeding. Johnson can reclaim that role and maybe soon, but for now and the foreseeable future, I feel the club should go with a closer by committee.
On a given day when Tommy Hunter or Darren O’Day pitches a strong eighth, why not keep them on for the ninth? If the opponent has tough lefties due up, Brian Matusz or Troy Patton could get the ball.
I know the O’s were unhappy with their lack of offense last night, but that has nothing to do with what happened in the last of the ninth. Whether the O’s were leading 10-9, 7-6 or 2-1, Johnson was getting the ball.
Buck Showalter has remarked how difficult it is to close out a one-run game in the AL East on the road in the ninth. Johnson was remarkable doing that last year. He has been remarkable at times this year and I don’t doubt he will be again.
But for now, for the next few games and series at least, I think the Orioles have to give the ball to someone else in the ninth.