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O's give ball back to Johnson, and closer delivers

O's give ball back to Johnson, and closer delivers

O's give ball back to Johnson, and closer delivers
NEW YORK -- The Orioles were in a save situation in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Thursday night, and they gave the ball back to closer Jim Johnson.

Johnson, who led the Majors with 51 saves, has struggled in the ALDS and was charged with a blown save in Game 3's 3-2, 12-inning loss to the Yankees, which put Baltimore on the brink of elimination. But the right-hander rebounded in Game 4, pitching a perfect 13th inning to close a 2-1 win.

Johnson has allowed two homers -- one of which came in a Game 1 loss in which he allowed five runs (four earned) -- after allowing only three homers the entire regular season as he has struggled to locate his trademark sinker.

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"As opposed to who?" manager Buck Showalter said of the prospect of not using Johnson in a save situation. "You know what people don't realize is how hard it is to pitch to the next hitter, which ended up being [Robinson] Cano, and then pitch the next inning."

Showalter, who said he preferred to dwell on Johnson's clean 10th inning on Wednesday and homers from rookies Manny Machado and Ryan Flaherty, said his closer is "very" available for Thursday's game.

"Jimmy, will be another one of those where he'll give me that Jim Johnson look and go, 'Really, are you asking me that?,'" Showalter said of his typical pregame talks during batting practice to see how his relievers are feeling.

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