It’s not the regular season anymore, Baltimore: Jim Johnson gets roughed up

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A close game and the Orioles going to the bullpen?  That was money in the bank all season long.  But now it’s the playoffs and nothing that came before mattered. And tonight the Orioles faithful saw something unusual: their All-Star closer get beat around and turn a 2-2 tie game in the ninth into a 7-2 loss in a New York minute.

The O’s and Yanks played it tight for eight innings, with runs scoring for New York on an Ichiro double and a Mark Teixeira single. Those hits surrounded a Nate McLouth two-run single. Baltimore and New York remained tied at two from the fourth through ninth inning.

The turning point came in the bottom of the eighth when J.J. Hardy reached on a leadoff double. CC Sabathia, hovering around a hundred pitches, may have been yanked in other circumstances, but Joe Girardi kept him in and was rewarded for it: the big guy struck out Adam Jones, induced a foul out by Matt Wieters and then got Mark Reynolds to ground out to short.

Buck Showalter called on Jim Johnson to handle the ninth. Not a bad call, actually. The bullpen has been the O’s meal ticket all year and Johnson hadn’t given up a run since September 8 en route to a 51 save season. He immediately gave up a run, however, in the form of a dinger to Russell Martin.  After that the wheels fell off, with Johnson surrendering five runs total on an assortment of hits and a sacrifice fly.

Hard to criticize Buck Showalter for going with his closer in a tie game at home. Sometimes, though, things just don’t work out the way they had been working out before.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs’ pitching coach

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the pitching coach due to personal reasons. The club will begin a search for a replacement.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement, “Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons. We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey, 57, spent over a decade as a coach in the Rays organization before joining the Cubs for the past season, reuniting with Joe Maddon. The Cubs’ starting staff ranked 10th among all 30 teams with a 3.84 ERA and the bullpen posted an NL-best 3.35 ERA.