By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EDT, May 15, 2013
So closer Jim Johnson finally blew a save in the regular season. How long has it been?
The last time he blew one Manny Machado and Nate McLouth weren’t Orioles. You’ve got to go all the way back to July 27, 2012 – not counting the one Game 3 of the ALDS – for a blown save by JJ.
Here’s a silver lining for you: Even when Johnson blows one, it’s rarely ugly. He gave up four singles that were beat into the ground on Tuesday. It’s not like they got a lot of lift off a guy who has made his living getting grounders. I’ll take that from my closer as opposed to the 97-mph fireballer with the penchant of serving up longballs in the ninth.
Here’s a second silver lining: Chris Tillman threw way too many pitches early on in his seven-inning, one-run effort Tuesday night. He had 42 pitches after two innings and 82 after four. Yet in his final three innings he threw just 30 total.
What that shows is that he can make adjustments within a game, shelve or refine what’s not working and attack with what is. The failure to do that killed Tillman at the beginning of his career and figuring it out helped him to excel last year. And that’s not lost on Tillman.
“It is encouraging. In the early part of the season I struggled with it a little bit,” Tillman said. “It was one of my strong points last year and I think it is starting to come around a little bit. Being able to make adjustments within the game is probably the biggest jump from Triple-A to the big leagues. Being able to make the adjustments now instead of in between starts is huge.”
I’m not sure this one will qualify as a silver lining. The bottom two spots in the order for the Orioles this year have been horrendous. Nos. 8 and 9 entered Tuesday night batting a combined .174 with just 19 runs driven in (that’s 11 percent of Orioles’ RBIs. If all lineup spots were equal, and obviously they aren’t, it would be 22 percent total).
Ryan Flaherty, batting eighth, and Steve Pearce, batting ninth, were a combined 2-for-5 with a walk and both runs driven in Tuesday night. Flaherty homered and Pearce hit a key single in the eighth that scored Alexi Casilla, who was pinch-running for Flaherty.
It’s a start, but the bottom of the order – whether it’s Flaherty, Pearce, Casilla, Nolan Reimold, whomever – must do a little more offensively if this team is to make a legitimate playoff run. Good teams get contributions from everyone.
The Orioles aren’t announcing a timeframe for the return of lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained right oblique. But since he won’t be allowed to pick up a baseball for at least two weeks, I’d guess that the club would be thrilled if Chen is back within a month. And six weeks, which takes us up to the beginning of July, wouldn’t be shocking.
Chen is in good shape, so maybe he gets back a little sooner. But his tireless work ethic could work against him here. Oblique strains have a tendency to hang on and he’s going to want to speed it along. Should be an interesting challenge for him.
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