Nobody is going to be harder on Jim Johnson after Sunday night’s ninth-inning blowup than Jim Johnson, but Orioles fans need to keep it in its proper perspective. Let’s not forget in the heat of a rare disappointing moment that Johnson might be the individual player most responsible for the club being in the postseason for the first time since 1997.
If there is any lesson to be learned from his outing in Game 1, it is that the psyche of a closer is a complex thing. Johnson took the mound in a non-save situation and clearly did not have the command that everyone has been able to take for granted through a season in which he converted 51 of 54 save opportunities and was responsible for just one loss in 71 appearances.
Did the law of averages just catch up with him? Did the heightened intensity of the playoffs knock him off his game? Or was it the fact that he had no lead to protect?
Something similar happened to Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan in the Wild Card game. He came in to try and keep the Rangers close in the ninth inning on Friday night and allowed the Orioles to pad their lead with two important insurance runs. It’s just a different mindset, even though it probably shouldn’t be.