Orioles closer Jim Johnson goes from perfect to struggling

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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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Score and Highlight

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Yeah, singular. Other than those ESPN Sunday Night games that opened the season for several years until recently I can’t remember a regular season day or night with only one game scheduled. I also don’t much like it, but no one asks me these things.

Cubs 9, Cardinals 6: The Cardinals led 3-1 heading into the Cubs’ half of the fifth, at which point Chicago went off for five runs, with Ian Happ hitting a two run homer and Jason Heyward, Antony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each knocking in a run. St. Louis would continue to score but each time they did the Cubs answered, never trailing again.

Heyward had three hits on the night, Happ had that dinger, Rizzo had two doubles and Victor Caratini, giving the just-returned All-Star Willson Contreras an extra day off, had three hits and scored three times.

As for pitching, check out this usage pattern from Joe Maddon:

I guess everyone was fresh after the break, though, so why not?

We get a full slate of 15 games today. As God and Nature intended.