ATLANTA — When the Atlanta Braves made a deal for Pierce Johnson at the trade deadline, they had hoped to find another reliable piece for their bullpen as they built their roster for postseason success. The 32-year-old right-hander has been everything the Braves hoped, and has already been a key part of their bullpen deployment in the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Acquired from the Colorado Rockies along with fellow veteran reliever Brad Hand, Johnson has now allowed just one hit over 1.2 scoreless innings against the Phillies, striking out two of the eight batters he has faced. That follows his transition to Atlanta where he logged an 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings in 24 appearances.
Johnson was one of five Atlanta relievers who didn't allow an earned run over the final five innings on Monday night in the Braves' 5-4 comeback win over the Phillies that evened the NLDS at 1-1.
"Everybody knows what job they have to do," Johnson said after the game. "Everybody went out there and pitched the way they needed to pitch."
Pierce Johnson on his comfort level with the Atlanta Braves
Johnson, in his sixth MLB season along with time he spent pitching in Japan, has settled into his role in the Braves bullpen after coming over midseason. He said the transition from the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South has been a fairly easy one.
"This is a veteran-heavy group. They're established and they know what they need to do," Johnson said. "Everybody is routine-oriented and we each stick to our own routine. It's just really cool to see every guy go about their business, day in and day out.
"And I've learned a lot here. You have a bunch of All-Stars and a bunch of guys with electric stuff. It's been fun."
That fun continued on Monday night as Johnson said he was watching the historic ending to the game as a catch against the wall by Michael Harris II started what would be the first 8-5-3 double play in MLB history at any point of a playoff game. With Bryce Johnson being doubled up off first base on the catch and throw, it was also the first double play ever involving an outfielder to end a postseason game.
Now, as the series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday, expect Johnson and the bullpen to play a key role in Atlanta's push to get back to the World Series.