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Johnson looks to continue the recent run of strong Cleveland Indians pitching efforts as they open a three-game series at Baltimore on Tuesday.
In five seasons with Baltimore from 1999-2003, Johnson posted a 34-53 record. The Orioles declined to offer him a contract after the 2003 season. He pitched two seasons with the Detroit Tigers before signing with Cleveland in January.
The 32-year-old right-hander had Baltimore’s number last season, going 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA in three starts versus the Orioles. He was just 5-13 with a 4.81 ERA in his 30 starts against all other clubs.
Johnson impressed in his Indians debut on April 8, throwing seven innings of shutout ball to defeat Minnesota. He left with the lead again on Thursday against Seattle after allowing three runs in 5 2-3 innings, but wound up without a decision as the Cleveland bullpen allowed six runs in a 9-5 loss.
The entire Indians pitching staff seems to be rounding into form after splitting a four-game series at Detroit. Cleveland pitchers allowed a total of just five runs and 16 hits in the last three contests.
The offense is also clicking. The Indians (8-5) are batting .309 as a team, and Casey Blake’s solo homer sparked a six-run third inning in support of starter Paul Byrd on Monday en route to a 10-2 victory.
“It helps you relax,” said Byrd, who limited the Tigers to two runs and four hits over seven innings. “You don’t have to be perfect.”
The Orioles (8-6) are no strangers to facing a stingy Cleveland pitching staff. The Indians took six of seven games in last season’s series, outscoring Baltimore 37-18 while the Orioles batted only .180.
This year’s Orioles could be a different, however. Baltimore has won six of its last eight games after four straight losses.
Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada each had two RBIs on Monday as the Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning of a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Baltimore won three games in its four-game series with the Angels, against whom they went 2-4 last season.
“They’re obviously deeper in a lot of areas than they were last year, and they’re going to come right at you,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Orioles will now need to use their depth. Outfielder David Newhan broke his right leg while sliding into second base on a steal Monday. He is expected to undergo surgery on Thursday.
“It’s one of those things. I’ll roll with it,” Newhan said. “Hopefully they’ll have some good news for me, they’ll put the pins in and six to eight weeks I should be back playing. I’ll keep my head up and go about it as if I’ll be back soon.”
Baltimore sends left-hander Bruce Chen to the mound in the series opener. Chen left his last start trailing after allowing five runs and a career-high four homers in 7 2-3 innings Thursday at Tampa Bay, but the Orioles scored three in the ninth inning to win 6-5 and let him off the hook.
“We won, so obviously I feel very good,” Chen said.
Chen’s only start against the Indians came last season on August 21. He went five innings and gave up two runs—one earned—but took a tough-luck loss as the Orioles managed only one run off Indians starter C.C. Sabathia and closer Bob Wickman.