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  • May
    20

    Further down the spiral Johnson blows third straight save opportunity - Orioles lose 6-to-4

    Written by Mike Laws

    Further down the spiral

    Johnson blows third straight save opportunity; O’s lose in ten

    New York Yankees 6, Orioles 4

     

    Now this is demoralizing. Consider, if you will, where the Baltimore Orioles would be right now were it not for Jim Johnson’s own personal Hell Week: 3-and-3 on the homestand (rather than 0-6), good for a 26-18 overall record (vs. a middling 23-21), a mere game out of first place (rather than, now, five). The sky might not be falling, but I find myself checking the window an awful lot …

     

    But let’s get right to the bullet points:

     

    • I’m too lazy to go back through the game thread and assign proper credit, but a Hangout user last night proposed an interesting thought exercise: Say things had gone as planned, and Freddy Garcia had another forgettable outing, and CC Sabathia continued to dominate at Oriole Park, and the Yanks won a laugher. Would that not have been easier to stomach than what actually transpired Monday evening? Because, removing the ninth inning from the equation, what we saw from this team was downright inspiring — and this despite an offense that stranded far too many runners, a pitching staff that made the visitors look entirely too efficient, and a certain first-base umpire who appeared determined to execute some kind of weird personal vendetta against Matt Wieters. Which is all to say, it sure didn’t look like the Birds were ever gonna get themselves back into this ballgame, even after Garcia settled down following a pair of solo shots (Robinson Cano, David Adams) conceded in his first two innings of work, and even after Chris Davis halved the deficit, in the Oriole half of the second, by clubbing a 3-2 Sabathia slider into the bleachers in right-center. The bats fell silent in the third, and marooned Wieters in scoring position (following a double) in the fourth; the team looked poised to squander another opportunity in the fifth, when Alexi Casilla bounced back to Sabathia, forcing Steve Pearce, who’d stroked a leadoff double, to hold tight at second. But then a funny thing happened. Nick Markakis — who’d helped Sabathia’s cause by first-ball-swinging, his first two at-bats, with nothing to show for it — finally took a called strike, then had to spin out of the way of the hefty lefty’s next offering, in on his hands, conjuring all sorts of bad memories of last September, when an eerily similar pitch found its way onto the bat handle and ended Markakis’s season. That, thankfully, didn’t happen again in this one — but the ball did tick off Markakis’s bat, as he knifed himself out of harm’s way, taking the count to an unlucky nothing-and-two. It also woke the Oriole right fielder up, apparently; he’d spoil a subsequent Sabathia offering and lay off another attempted out-pitch before slapping a grounder back through the box and into center, plating Pearce and tying things at 2 … 

     

    • While meantime, following the Adams homer in the second, Garcia had allowed just one subsequent Yankee batsman to reach (Adams, again, in the fifth), but had erased that runner on a smoothly turned 3-6-1 double play. The Oriole starter would repeat the trick in the sixth, despite what seemed a warning light blinking red; Pearce reeled in a vicious liner to left for the inning’s first out, after which Garcia lost Brett Gardner, whom he’d had 1-2 before walking, then delivered four consecutive balls to Cano (two of which, by the way, looked like strikes; and it was after the second delivery that Wieters threw behind Gardner, at first, and clearly got him, except umpire Jim Cooper, inexplicably, ruled Gardner safe). So it was first and second, one down, no love from the umps, Garcia on the ropes — and but then Travis Hafner stung a one-hopper right at Casilla, the force of which knocked the Oriole second baseman onto his knees on the outfield grass, but Casilla was somehow still able to fire a strike to second, where J.J. Hardy caught and delivered a strike of his own on the relay to first, and the side was, however improbably, retired, the score still knotted at twos. (This was, by the way, Casilla’s second stellar defensive play of the evening, the first having ended the fourth inning, when Casilla dived to flag down a Curtis Granderson chopper into the hole between first and second, and, though he slipped on the grass while attempting to pop up to his feet, was able, while falling, to deliver a one-hopper to Davis just in time to nab the fleet Yankee center fielder, though looking back on it I’m surprised Cooper didn’t give the Bombers that call, too.)

     

    • And while Wieters would get the shaft on what should’ve been a rare (for him) infield single, in the Oriole sixth, with Davis already aboard, precluding what might’ve been a big inning — and while Troy Patton, on in relief of Garcia to start the seventh, would cough up a homer to his first hitter, Lyle Overbay — the Birds broke through against Sabathia in their half of the frame. Casilla led things off by swatting a single, on a 1-2 pitch, into right; Markakis followed, also on a 1-2 pitch, by driving a gapper into left-center, bringing Casilla all the way around to tie the ballgame. And though Manny Machado, first-ball hitting, grounded out to short (a rare instance of the youngster looking his age, and failing to hit behind the runner or make any other kind of productive out), J.J. Hardy picked Machado up, looking positively Jeter-esque in dumping a double down the line to right. Which gave the O’s their first lead of the night, and bounced Sabathia from the ballgame …

     

    • But here’s where things get ugly. Following a scoreless eighth (in which a terrific Darren O’Day recorded a groundout, then back-to-back strikeouts, but the Orioles failed to make any kind of hay off a one-out Chris Dickerson single, eventually stranding the pinch hitter at third), out of the ’pen strode Jim Johnson. Who jumped out 0-2 on Robinson Cano before Cano worked the count full; the Yankee second baseman eventually grounded out to second. OK, so Johnson’s got the good groundball-inducing stuff going, it appears; he’s also just battled hard to get the toughest out in the New York lineup. Problem is, Johnson would then fall to 3-1 (with ball three, again, an iffy call) to Hafner before the man they used to call Pronk took him yard the other way to left. And Johnson’s blown his third save in a week. And we’re all tied up at 4. The Oriole closer would finish out the ninth without further damage — but it feels like a very bad thing to be sitting here saying his one run on two hits actually represents an improvement over his last two outings …

     

    • In any case, following a quiet Oriole half, on to extras we went. And now it was Pedro Strop’s turn. The hard-throwing righty delivered one way-out-there ball to Ichiro Suzuki before the Yankee right fielder lashed a double down the line to right. Vernon Wells then drilled a double of his own to left. 5-4, bad guys. Strop would get Jayson Nix to ground out before being asked to walk Cano and turn this one over to Brian Matusz — who promptly coughed up a smashed single to right, again off the bat of Hafner. 6-4 …

     

    • Which was more than enough for Mariano Rivera, as it usually is. A groundout, a fly-out and a strikeout ensued in short order, and this one was in the books, the game outing from Garcia and clutch offensive performances and sparkling defensive plays having gone for naught, with Oriole fans forced to endure not only the third heartbreaker in the last seven days, but also the sight of a Camden Yards chockablock with gloating Yankee fans making their untroubled way to the exits …

     

     

    Box Score


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