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  • May

    Another Streak Ends

    Written by Mike Laws

    Another streak ends

    Johnson blows save, O’s fall to Padres

    San Diego 3, Orioles 2



    Look, it was bound to happen at some point.


    That’s not meant to come off as annoyingly upbeat — I, for one, hate it when people rain on my pity-parties — but, for this reporter, personally, Jim Johnson’s blown save Tuesday in game one of two against the visiting Padres was a lot easier to take than (for example) Jim Johnson’s blown save in game three of last year’s ALDS against the Yankees, which for some reason no one ever counted against his streak — now over, no matter how you count — of successful conversions. (Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a playoffs/regular-season thing.) Hell, I remember being way more upset when B.J. Ryan blew those back-to-back games against Minnesota in 2005. That felt, back then, like the beginning of the end of that season; at 23-and-16, having won eight of their last ten series, and playing inspired ball all around, this just feels like an aberration, a bump in the road, a hiccup. They’ll bounce back (hopefully tomorrow, around about noon, while I’ll be looking on, getting gloriously sunburnt while crushing Polish sausages).


    So, in a sanguine kind of mood, on to the bullet points:


    • The saddest thing about Jimmy J.’s blown save was that it undid what was looking like another cockle-warming performance on the part of the Oriole offense. But unlike a good chunk of their season to date, this one wasn’t a slugfest; it had only a very little to do with tit-for-tat long balls; think more along the lines of a scratch-it-out-type effort … 


    • … but more on that in a minute. Credit where credit’s due, first: For here we had an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel, with Chris Tillman turning in seven strong for the Birds while his counterpart, the flame-throwing Andrew Cashner, delivered ever so slightly more, at seven and a third, for the Padres. Ironically (given that Cashner would eventually find himself in line for a loss), Tillman probably looked the (marginally) weaker of the two, what with the elevated pitch count in the early going; the big righty needed forty-some odd pitches to get through his first two frames, in which, though he’d retire the side in order in the first, he’d eventually surrender a homer to Carlos (“The Collarbone Crusher”) Quentin to lead off the second, only narrowly escaping without further damage after the Padres loaded the bases (two singles, a hit batsman), striking out slick-fielding shortstop Everth Cabrera (he’ll come up again in this recap) to end the threat. 1-0, San Diego … 


    • … while meanwhile Cashner had conceded only a double, to Chris Davis, through two, with nothing more coming of that particular inning. But in the third, leading off, it was Ryan Flaherty who punched a Cashner two-seamer the other way, just over the wall in left, to knot this thing up. Hey, Flaherty loves the fastball, and if Cashner’s gonna supply the power, why not? About time the Birds get a little production from second base. 1-1 …


    • … and that was pretty much it, for a long while. Tillman still needed more pitches than we O’s fans would prefer, to get out of the third and fourth — frames in which he’d walk a leadoff hitter but get a double-play bailout (the third) and, distressingly, put two aboard (a one-out single and walk, in the fourth) before coming up with a big strikeout to keep any real trouble at bay. Meanwhile, aside from the homer to Flaherty, Cashner was cruising, with his own HBP (Adam Jones) in the fourth and a J.J. Hardy single to start the fifth being the final two runners he’d permit aboard until his eighth inning of work. Never one to be outdone, Tillman gamely matched his opposite number through the middle innings, requiring just eleven pitches to set the Padres down in order in the fifth, six pitches in the sixth, thirteen in the seventh (with, it should be noted, a terrific leaping grab by Jones at the wall aiding in the effort). And so on into the late innings we went …


    • … which is where things really started looking up. A fairly worry-free eighth from Brian Matusz/Darren O’Day (another hit batsman, but nothing else) followed Tillman’s exit, after which the Orioles got straight-up opportunistic, against Cashner. After Hardy flied out to right to start the half-inning, Flaherty worked a patient one-out walk, and was pinch-run for in the person of Alexi Casilla — who waited three pitches into Steve Pearce’s at-bat before swiping second; the throw from catcher Nick Hundley glanced off Casilla’s arm, as he slid headfirst, and squibbed into center, allowing Casilla to bounce up and cruise into third, where he wouldn’t be waiting for long, as on the very next delivery Pearce ripped a low liner into left, good for the first Oriole lead of the night. 2-1, Bawlmer. Woohoo.


    • But this is where things get sad. And while you could maybe say that Yonder Alonso’s first-pitch-swinging seeing-eye grounder through the hole between short and third was kinda lucky, to start things off against Johnson in the San Diego ninth, the follow-up first-pitch single from Mark Kotsay, back through the box, decidedly wasn’t; in fact it was probably a little lucky on the Orioles’ part that the next batter, Jedd Gyorko’s, hard-hit grounder wound up being smashed right at Hardy, who flipped to Casilla, who relayed to first easily in time for a timely twin-killing. Either way, Johnson, clearly lacking his best stuff, looked like he might just get out of this one with his thirty-sixth consecutive (regular-season) save, with the potential tie run stranded ninety feet away. It wasn’t to be. Chris Denorfia singled (again, back through the box), and this one was all square; Johnson then got up 0-2 on Hundley before hitting the San Diego backstop (again) with a pitch; and Cabrera, of all people, followed with the inning’s third single to center, staking his team to a 3-2 lead it wouldn’t relinquish, in the bottom half. And so 3-2, Padres, is your final …

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