Down the Stretch (Sept. 4)

[Editor's note: Down the stretch is a new daily Orioles Insider blog that will set up the coming night for the O's and their American League competition as the push for the postseason intensifies.]

About last night


AL East Standings


NYY     76-58     --
BAL     75-59     1
TB       74-61     2.5

AL Wild-Card Standings

OAK     76-58    --
BAL     75-59     --
TB       74-61     1.5
DET     72-62     3
LAA     72-63     3.5

Today's game


Orioles at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m.

LHP Zach Britton (4-1, 4.80 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva (7-3, 3.10 ERA)

Key matchup

Orioles DH Chris Davis is 4 for 6 against Villanueva for his career and 2 for 2 against him this year -- with both those hits home runs.

Other games that matter

Yankees (Garcia) at Rays (Cobb), 7:10 p.m.

Indians (Masterson) at Tigers (Porcello), 7:05 p.m.

Twins (Diamond) at White Sox (Quintana), 8:10 p.m.

Rangers (Harrison) at Royals (Guthrie), 8:10 p.m.

Angels (Greinke) at A’s (Parker), 10:05 p.m.

Thought of the day

Jim Johnson hadn’t pitched in three days, and the Orioles’ lead was only four runs, so it was a no-brainer for him to work the ninth inning of yesterday’s 4-0 win over the Jays.

But closers many times aren't as sharp pitching in non-save situations, which is why it was encouraging to watch Johnson mow through the inning 1-2-3.

Johnson hadn't pitched in a non-save situation since Aug. 4, and that was also a 1-2-3 ninth in a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay.

With these games down the stretch meaning so much, the Orioles might put more 4- or 5-run games in Johnson's hands. It's hard to explain exactly why a closer would struggle when he has a bigger lead – the obvious suggestion is that he lets up a little bit – but Johnson hasn't shown a hint of that.

And, since his last blown save against Oakland on July 27, he's allowed no runs and just five hits in 12 2/3 innings of work.

Just what you want to see from a closer at this time of year.

Inside the enemy clubhouses

Poll question