Jim Johnson bounces back as Orioles even ALDS with Yankees

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Jim Johnson took the loss in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees last night by giving up five runs (four earned) in the ninth inning while retiring just one batter. But he redeemed himself tonight.

Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves during the regular season, pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save as the Orioles topped the Yankees 3-2 to tie the ALDS at 1-1. Yes, it was another one-run win for Baltimore. It was also the O’s first playoff win at Camden Yards since Game 1 of the 1997 ALCS against the Indians.

Wei-Yin Chen was excellent for the Orioles, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits and a walk while striking out three. Darren O’Day fanned Alex Rodriguez for a big strikeout in the seventh while Brian Matusz was impressive yet again, getting four crucial outs, including two strikeouts. While the ninth inning was a nightmare for Johnson last night, it was pretty uneventful this time around. He induced ground outs from Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki before striking out Rodriguez swinging to end it.

Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds were the heroes on offense for the O’s. Davis had a two-run single in the bottom of the third while Reynolds’ opposite-field single in the sixth ended up being the difference in the ballgame.

The series will resume Wednesday at Yankee Stadium when Miguel Gonzalez pitches for the Orioles and Hiroki Kuroda starts for the Bombers.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.