Nick Johnson winning over fans one HR swing at a time

If you’re looking for unlikely heroes tonight, cast your gaze in Nick Johnson’s direction.

Johnson began the night batting .122 with no home runs and five RBIs. He’s been booed by the Camden Yards crowd. Readers of this blog question why he’s still on the team, the memory of his 0-for-28 start burned into their brains.

For one night, at least, he’s the most popular guy in the building.

Johnson drilled a two-run homer off Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.

Peralta replaced Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson after Chris Davis poked a two-out single into center field. On the eighth pitch, Johnson pulled a 90-mph fastball over the grounds crew shed in right-center field for his first home run since May 5, 2010 against former Orioles pitcher David Hernandez.

Johnson was 3-for-35 against right-handers this season before stepping to the plate against Peralta.

Johnson also has singled, walked and stolen his second base of the season. This is the first time in his major league career that he’s homered and stolen a base in the same game.

Johnson had two steals in 2009 with the Nationals, and none since that season. His career high is 10 in 2006.

He’s spent more time on the disabled list than on the run, but he’s having a big night here.

Now it’s up to the bullpen to hold the lead. Pedro Strop has replaced Darren O’Day, who retired the side in order in the top of the seventh.

Tonight’s attendance: 26,669.

Instant update: Strop just retired the side in order in the eighth. Jim Johnson is getting loose.

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