Some dude who's the son of some other dude who did something sometime a long time ago started for the O's tonight. Ho hum....Oh...the dude who's the son of some other dude who did something sometime a long time ago was making his 1st career start tonight. Whatevs....And the dude who's the son of some other dude who did something sometime a long time ago happens to be a local kid. Well isn't that special?
I kid, of course. Steve Johnson, son of former Oriole and current MASN personality Dave Johnson, turned in a fantastic performance in his big league starting debut, 23 years to the day from when his pops earned his first career major league Win. His performance, coupled with a nicely balanced offensive attack, secured a sweep of the Mariners, and a 5th straight win for the O's, their 60th on the season.Steve Johnson came out guns a'blazin in the top of the 1st inning: 12 pitches, 12 strikes, 1 hit, and 3 Ks. No jitters for this kid! However, his stuff was in no way overpowering. He threw mostly 90 mph fastballs in the 1st, mixing in a couple of 69-70 mph curveballs. His dominance came via his control and command; pinpoint one could say.
The offense did some work of their own in the bottom half of the 1st against former Mentor, Kevin Millwood. Home plate umpire Brian Knight tried to help old man Millwood out, giving him an ample strike zone with which to work. Nick Markakis was nonplussed with the dimensions of said zone as he K'd looking to lead off. A pessimist might see this and think 'gonna be a long night for the O's offense.' They would be wrong. J.J. Hardy would lace a single to left and be followed by a Chris Davis BB after an extended at bat. After an Adam Jones fielders choice ground out left men on the corners, Matt Wieters would step to the plate with 2 down. Matt Wieters caught all 14 innings of last evening's game. Buck Showalter said he was very close to giving the Switch Hitting Jesus the night off tonight as a result, but Matty was persistent that he wanted to catch Steve Johnson's first start and Buck yielded. Good decision. Matt would work a full-count before driving a ball to deep right field. Marcus Thames attempted a leaping catch just before the warning track in front of the scoreboard but the ball bounced off his glove, allowing Hardy and Jones to score. 37 pitches later and the offense had put up some run support for the Rookie! Always a good thing!
Johnson would come out for his 2nd inning with a 2-0 lead, but some of the adrenaline that carried him through the 1st must have worn off. He gave up a bloop single and a walk before inducing a grounder back up the middle that J.J. Hardy managed to field and toss to Omar Quintanilla for the force at 2nd base. After another walk which loaded the bases, Stevie would get a gift out from the always entertaining Munenori Kawasaki when he attempted a non-sacrifice bunt that bounced right back to the mound. Johnson would flip to Wieters for the force play at home to record the 2nd out of the inning. A couple of pitches later and Dustin Ackley would pop out to Omar in shallow right field. Crisis averted, lead still intact, inning over.
From there on out it was pretty smooth sailing for Johnson as he would work his command of the zone to the tune of 9 Ks and a 3:6 GO:FO ratio! He would ultimately go 6 IP, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 earned runs via a fence-scraper HR off the bat of Kyle Seager in the 6th inning. Bravo, kiddo! Get used to that Major League paycheck!
Overshadowed by young Mr. Johnson will be the performance of the offense tonight. 5 players managed multi-hit efforts (Markakis, Hardy, Jones, Wieters, Quintanilla) and the team would manage to get on base 17 times in 41 plate appearances and score 9 runs. A lot of runs left on the base paths to be sure. But it's nice to see this team just getting men on the base paths in the first place. Home runs from Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds, a 3 hit night for Dr. Jones, along with a 5 RBI night from Matt Wieters provided the bulk of the oomph on this night. Let's keep this train a'rolling, Gents!
With the victory tonight, the O's remain 4.5 games off the pace set by the Yankees. However, they are now in a three way tie for the 1st Wild Card slot along with the Tigers and A's, while the Rays and the Angels are 1.5 games off the Wild Card pace. 60 wins down. 30 more to go. But why stop there? Dan O'Hare, methinks you set your sights too low! Why such a pessimist!?!