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Thoughts and observations from the Orioles' 9-6 win over the Nationals

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

7:12 AM EDT, May 30, 2013

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At least for one night, all was right again in Birdland after Wednesday night’s 9-6 comeback win over the Washington Nationals.

No questions about whether the 22-year-old wunderkind right-hander is ready for the majors. No more piling on a struggling closer. No more concerns about the second base position.

Not on Wednesday night. Instead, Orioles fans just sat back and enjoyed the fireworks.

It’s easy to do when you currently have the best power hitter in the game in Chris Davis, who recorded his fourth career multihomer game with four hits, two home runs and three RBIs.

In his final at-bat of the night, Davis swung through a 93-mph fastball aiming for the seats. Then two pitches later, he sat on a 81-mph changeup and crushed it over the right-center field fence.

“Yeah, I kind of had to take a step out and take a deep breath,” Davis said. “It was one of those situations where I didn’t know if they were going to pitch to me or not. I wasn’t sure. I don’t mean intentional walk. I mean if I was going to get anything to hit. I saw a heater my first pitch, and my eyes lit up. I almost threw out my back, I swung so hard. I told myself to relax and just take what they give me. He threw another good fastball right after that. He left a changeup up, and I’m glad he did.”

Nearly lost in the Orioles’ four-run comeback was Steve Johnson’s critical role in relief. For the sixth time in seven games, an Orioles starting pitcher went fewer than six innings -- which has placed a more important role on the long relievers.

Steve Johnson kept the Orioles in it, though, entering with a 6-2 deficit and two outs in the fifth and throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings, not allowing a hit through that span and striking out two and walking one.

We all know by now that if the pitching can keep the Orioles somewhat close going into the late innings, the bats will wake up most times.

Even though Johnson struggled in his spot start here, he plays a critical role in the bullpen, especially with the uncertainty with roles in the late innings. I’m thinking he’s here to stay for a while, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a spot start sometime soon.

Wednesday night’s crowd was very pro-Orioles -- the Nationals fans from down south didn’t make too much noise -- and it was interesting how they gave rousing receptions to both second baseman Ryan Flaherty and closer Jim Johnson.

After Flaherty, who had two hits in his first game back from Triple-A Norfolk, hit an RBI double in the second, the fans gave him a huge ovation. This is the same guy who was seemingly getting booed after every at-bat before he was optioned.

Things change quickly.

As they did for closer Jim Johnson, who also received a loud ovation when he came in from the bullpen for the ninth inning. It didn’t hurt that Johnson made quick work of the Nationals in the ninth, retiring them in order on 11 pitches (nine strikes) and striking out two of the three batters he faced.

“Jimmy gets it,” Showalter said. “He knows how hard a job it is mentally. I thought our fans were pretty impressive with the reception they gave him. Jimmy, he might admit it, but he ... I think everybody in our clubhouse pulls for each other, but especially, you know how much the Orioles mean to him and being a part of this organization from the get-go. Sometimes you can get where you want something too much instead of just trusting yourself a little bit. He’s spoiled us with a real high level of pitching.”