Orioles closer Jim Johnson coming through in the clutch on the road

August 20, 2012|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

DETROIT — Orioles closer Jim Johnson saved his 37th game of the season Sunday aftenoon in the Orioles’ 7-5 series-clinching win over the Tigers at Comerica Park with another stress-free 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The save tied him with former Orioles closer Gregg Olson for second-most saves in a single-season in club history. The first-time All-Star is having a career year in his first season as the Orioles' closer.

What makes Johnson’s season more spectacular is his success on the road, where he’s converted 23 of 24 save opportunities, including 13 straight away from Camden Yards.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said several times in postgame interviews how much of a challenge it is closing games on the road pitching in the AL East. There’s not only the dangerous top-to-bottom lineups – and the easy availability of pinch hitters and runners – but there’s the intense pressure atmosphere of having to shut a team down in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“I just kind of go with the flow,” Johnson said after saving Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Tigers. “Things kind of started out well and we are trying to keep the momentum so we can get where we want to get at the end of the year.”

Johnson’s dependability was a huge part of the Orioles’ early-season run. As the Orioles ran out to a 28-16 start on May 22, Johnson was 16 for 16 in save opportunities. Nine of those saves came on the road in places like Boston, Anaheim, Chicago, Toronto and Kansas City.

Eleven of Johnson’s past 14 saves have also come on the road, and over his last nine appearances on the road -- over 8 2/3 innings -- Johnson has allowed just five hits and one run for a 1.04 ERA. He saved both Orioles wins here at Comerica Park in front of 40,000-plus sellout crowds in Detroit.

“There was a good feel in the ballpark obviously with a packed house,” Johnson said. “And with everything going on, with where we are as opposed to where they are in the standings, it’s a big series for both teams and there’s excitement for both ballclubs, so that gives you an idea. But we got a couple more weeks to go and obviously we will build momentum as we go along.”

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