A look at the O’s recent struggles on offense and a take on Jim Johnson

As the Orioles get ready to begin the third and final leg of their 10-game road trip, their bats once again need to heat up.

In the final series before the All-Star Game, the Orioles scored six runs in three games against New York. They then scored 14 runs in Oakland and just 10 in Anaheim.

The Orioles have seven hits or less in 10 of their last 11 games. The team average is .205 and they’ve scored 36 runs in those games. They’ve scored three or fewer runs six times in that stretch.

Now they face the team with the best ERA in the majors at 3.11 and they face their two best starters the next two nights, going against Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4, 2.95 ERA) tonight and Felix Hernandez (11-2, 2.02 ERA) tomorrow.

Iwakuma is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in four July starts with no walks and 28 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. Hernandez is the AL leader in ERA.

A struggling offense faces top pitching the next two nights. The O’s starting pitchers got the job done in Anaheim, but now the bats need to get going in the Seattle series.

A take on Jim Johnson: When Jim Johnson pitched so well for the 2012 Orioles, I never thought I would see him struggle like he has this year. The Oakland A’s designated him for assignment today.

During that 2012 season, Johnson converted 51 of 54 save attempts and went 2-0 with an 0.80 ERA. He saved 20 of 21 games against the American League East. He is one of three pitchers (along with Mariano Rivera and Eric Gagne) in major league history to have two 50-save seasons.

But now his big league future is very much in doubt.

Here is what A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle about Johnson:

The A’s and Johnson just were never a fit, for whatever reason. Johnson, who had 101 saves over the previous two years to lead all of baseball, was removed from the closer’s role the second week of the season, he was often booed at the Coliseum and he just never seemed comfortable in Oakland. Even his body language looked poor at times, and his confidence appeared to be shaken, particularly after he was bounced from the closer spot so quickly.

There was never any question of his effort level, nor Johnson’s professionalism. He always heaped blame on himself after bad outings, and the only time the fans’ booing got to him, understandably, was when his wife was heckled at a charity event. “I’d boo me, too,” he said on several occasions.

Johnson was respected by his teammates more than almost any player I’ve ever seen. Reporters respected him for answering every question and pointing the finger directly at himself when his 2013 season took a turn for the worse.

Could Johnson return to the Orioles? Certainly the club can not afford to pitch a struggling reliever right now and allow him time to try to turn it around. They don’t have the time to do that, even for a player so liked and respected by O’s management and players. If he would go the minors, then I could possibly see it.

Despite the bashing he took from some fans last season, I think Johnson still has plenty of fans in Baltimore. Fans that are probably feeling for him today.

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