By Daniel Gallen
The Baltimore Sun
8:00 AM EDT, June 12, 2013
Twice in two nights, Orioles closer Jim Johnson faced off against one of the most intimidating lineups in the major leagues, and twice in two nights, Johnson notched the save.
In shutting the door in the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, Johnson converted his 23rd save of the year — which tied him for first in the majors with Pittsburgh’s Jason Grilli and the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera at the moment. He also extended his season-high streak of eight successful save opportunities.
But while the Angels failed in their bid to be the first team to come back on Johnson since Toronto on May 26, they were the first team to score on Johnson since the Blue Jays. After Johnson retired Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton knocked a two-out double to right field and Albert Pujols drove him in with a single up the middle.
Johnson then struck out Mike Trumbo looking to end the game.
It was the second night in a row Johnson that faced Bourjos, Trout and Hamilton to seal a win. Bourjos and Trout are batting .311 and .303 this year, respectively, and Trout has 20 doubles, six triples and 12 home runs. Hamilton, despite a paltry .216 batting average, hit four home runs in a game against the Orioles as a member of the Texas Rangers last season and is one year removed from a 43 home run, 128 RBI-season.
No matter what result Johnson ended up with, it wouldn’t be easy.
Still, Johnson’s performance in the eight-game streak has been reminiscent of his form before his stretch of four blow saves in five opportunities in mid-May.
In the past eight saves, Johnson has allowed only one run on five hits in 7 1/3 innings. He’s struck out five batters and hasn’t walked one in that stretch.
Johnson also pitched on three consecutive nights, but manager Buck Showalter said there were other factors to look at when considering whether or not to use him Tuesday.
Johnson’s saves at Tampa Bay on Sunday and against the Angels on Tuesday were short outings -- he needed only nine pitches to get through of each inning. The most pitches he’s thrown in his streak came last night with 19.
“I think Jimmy would probably be better tonight than he would be tomorrow,” Showalter said. “Usually, that's how it works with relief pitchers, with the short night.”
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