Jim Johnson being nearly flawless in the closer role played a huge part in the Orioles’ unexpected success last season, but suddenly he’s really struggling.
Johnson converted 35 straight saves from July 30, 2012 to May 13, 2013, during which time he threw 44 innings with a 0.61 ERA. That streak came to an end last Tuesday, as Johnson blew a save against the Padres. His next appearance came Saturday and he blew a save against the Rays. And then his next appearance came last night and he blow a save against the Yankees.
So, to recap: 35 consecutive save chances converted while allowing a grand total of four runs in 44 innings, followed by three consecutive blown saves while allowing eight runs in 2.1 innings. Johnson didn’t seem to have an explanation for his sudden struggles, but manager Buck Showalter indicated to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com that he’s in no danger of losing the closer gig.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.