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Johnson finding form since 'break' from closing

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ANAHEIM -- A's right-hander Jim Johnson is still on "a break" from closing, but the man who saved 101 games the past two seasons for the Orioles seems headed in the right direction again after picking up victories over the Angels in the first two games of the series at Angel Stadium.

In his past three outings -- since manager Bob Melvin announced Johnson's "break" -- he has retired 15 of 18 batters faced and pitched five shutout innings.

"I'm just making some better pitches," Johnson said before Wednesday's series finale. "I don't want to turn this into Jim Johnson Watch."

Melvin's watching, though, and says he likes what he sees..

"I think the two-inning outing he had [Friday at Minnesota] was good for him," the manager said.

Johnson had another of those Tuesday, pitching the 10th and 11th innings of a 10-9 victory. The A's had no one else they wanted to use after him, except in an emergency.

"[Melvin] never said that," Johnson said, when asked about being the last reliever standing. "I kind of figured it out."

Johnson said if the Angels would've tied it, "I would have done what I had I had to do ... .it's been a while since I threw three innings."

Melvin said Tuesday's two innings by Johnson "showed what he is," because he had to come into a tie, then in essence save the victory for himself the next inning.

When Johnson's missing now, "he's missing down in the zone with the sinker, not up in the zone," Melvin said.

Earl Bloom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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