Jim Johnson
Image Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the tenth, Orioles skipper Buck Showalter turned to Jim Johnson, who had blown three consecutive save opportunities including one in Monday’s loss. The O’s closer worked fast and retired the side in order on just eight pitches.

Baltimore rejoiced and proclaimed that their beloved closer had put this recent slump behind him and was back to his 2012 form. I may have been the only person wearing an Orioles hat that watched and disagreed.

On the surface, Johnson’s five strikes in eight pitches to the Yankees’ six, seven and eight hitters looked great. But his fastball command still bothered me.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown.

Curtis Granderson

  • Pitch 1: Matt Wieters setup for a four-seam fastball low and on the outer part of the plate, Johnson threw high and outside at 92 MPH for ball one.
  • Pitch 2: Same setup for the changeup. Pitch thrown slightly higher, but in the zone to even the count.
  • Pitch 3: Setup for a sinker knee high, inside corner. Pitch thrown high and inside for a 2-1 count.
  • Pitch 4: Setup for a four-seam fastball low, outside corner. Thrown inside at 93 MPH, but fouled away for 2-2 count.
  • Pitch 5: Setup for a sinker low, outside corner. The pitch ran in at 93 MPH for a line-out to second.

Jim Johnson vs. Curtis Granderson - May 21, 2013

David Adams

  • Pitch 1: Setup for a sinker low and outside. Johnson’s pitch crossed the middle of the plate letter high at 93 MPH. Adams flew out to deep centerfield.

Jim Johnson vs. David Adams - May 21, 2013

Jim Johnson misses his spot against David Adams

The GIF above highlights my concern. Wieters is attempting to keep Johnson’s sinker down in the zone, but he releases too high and elevates the pitch. He got away with one here.

Jayson Nix

  • Pitch 1: Setup for a four-seam fastball low and outside. Thrown high for ball one.
  • Pitch 2: Setup for a sinker low and outside. Johnson’s pitch moves into the middle of the zone, but is popped up to second base.

Jim Johnson vs. Jayson Nix - May 21, 2013

Though it was just eight pitches, I thought Johnson continued to show the same problems he’s had in his previous three outings. He’s elevating the fastball and sinker and better hitters will make him pay for it. Granderson helped him out by fouling away a pitch outside of the zone to even the count. While Adams and Nixed missed on two mistake pitches in the middle of the zone.

In the end, Johnson got the job done and recorded the crucial three outs the Orioles needed. Maybe this outing boosts his confidence. I’m still concerned with what I’m seeing though.