After he picked up his first save since Aug. 6 with a 1-2-3 ninth inning on just nine pitches, Jim Johnson was asked what made this outing different from the recent ones where he suffered blown saves.
“Command. I was able to command both sides of the plate. And getting later action,” he said. “There were a couple of games where it looked like the ball was reacting too soon. These guys are really good and if they see it move too early, they can make the adjustment. Just wanted to get about another foot or so on the ball and pound the zone.”
Johnson picked up his AL-leading 40th save as the Orioles beat Oakland 9-7.
He said he wanted to be more aggressive tonight.
“It was part of what I’ve been working on in between. Obviously, things went well, so it translated onto the field,” Johnson said.
“I think it was a relief for a lot of people, but there is always work to be done. We know what we have to do and what is in front of us and we’ll literally take it game-to-game.”
Does this give Johnson more confidence moving forward?
“I’d like to say it does, but confidence is short-lived until the next day,” he said. “You have to trust what your work ethic is and what you put into it and hopefully the results will follow.”
Brian Roberts hit his sixth grand slam and this one came in a pennant race and a big game.
“It’s fun. This is what we all play for,” Roberts said. “You want to be in the race in August and September. I missed the fun last year, so to be able to contribute is awesome.”
In the eighth inning, Roberts stole third base to end a 41-game drought since his last steal April 4 against Tampa Bay. That is one game shy of his longest stretch without a steal, which was 42 games from Aug. 3-Sept. 19, 2004.
“It was good, but I didn’t score so it really didn’t change much,” Roberts said. “I haven’t run a lot, but the biggest thing for me is to be on the field and contributing in whatever fashion that is. The opportunities present themselves and you play the game the way you think you should at the time.”
So now that he has been back since June 30, has Roberts gained a real comfort level on the field again?
“It is night and day compared to the first two or three weeks,” he said. “You go through a little spring training process when you have been out for three months. You know eventually you will get that feel back. To play every day and get 100, 150 consistent at-bats has been great.
“I don’t know (if I feel like I did years ago). I don’t worry about it too much. I am not trying to be who I was at 27. Just trying to fit in and be one of the guys however I can. For me it is about enjoying the game and having fun. The results will take care of themselves. I just feel blessed to have the chance to play again.”