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.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.