By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
2:33 AM EDT, August 14, 2013
Orioles closer Jim Johnson stood by his locker and explained what has become a familiar scene at the end of games.
For his second straight outing, Johnson – the majors' saves leader with 39 – couldn't preserve a one-run ninth-inning lead. And after Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo homer off Johnson to tie Tuesday night’s game in the bottom of the ninth, the Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman hit a game-winner in his next at-bat, handing the Orioles their second stinging walk-off loss in as many nights, 4-3, in 11 innings.
Goldschmidt launched the game-winning shot to right on lefty reliever T.J. McFarland's first pitch of the 11th to prompt another celebration at home plate and another quiet Orioles clubhouse.
“We need every win,” said Johnson, whose blown save was his eighth of the season. “It’s frustrating because I’ve let a lot go that I shouldn’t have. It’s hard to gain ground when you can’t close the book on a couple games that you think you should.”
With the loss, the Orioles (65-54) fell to six games behind the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox, and they now they need a win in Wednesday’s afternoon series finale to avoid a sweep and clinch a winning record on their eight-game interleague road trip to San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona.
Tuesday's defeat wasted Chris Davis’ major-league leading 44th homer of the season — a two-run shot in the fourth-inning that broke a scoreless tie — and a fine seven-inning start by right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who held the Diamondbacks scoreless through his first six innings.
A night after Adam Eaton hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth, Goldschmidt’s 29th homer of the season sealed a victory for Arizona (61-57).
“Any time you get walked off two nights in a row it’s tough,” said Davis. “I feel like runs have been at a premuim in both of the last couple of nights. Both pitching staffs threw pretty well. You know they’re going to get the last at-bat. You know the ball flies out here.”
The Orioles saw a 3-0 seventh-inning lead quickly disappear as their bullpen again failed to hold a lead.
“We move on,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We didn’t do much offensively. We had a couple home runs but we didn’t do a lot. They’ve been pitching us well. We were hoping it could stand up.”
After another blown save by Johnson, Showalter faced the question of whether he would consider giving veteran reliever Francisco Rodriguez – who was acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers last month and pitched a scoreless eighth on Tuesday – any future closing opportunities.
“I understand how this works,” Showalter said. “A week ago, people were asking what’s wrong with Frankie. I don’t live in that world.
“We’ve won a lot in the one-run games and we’ve closed them out too, so does that matter? That gets thrown out. I don’t live in that world. I understand some people do. You can’t do it in major league clubhouses and continue to get what we get from our players every day. This isn’t easy to do.”
Showalter said just three relievers were available to pitch Tuesday – late-inning arms Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day were given a day of rest – so when Johnson blew the lead in the ninth, it didn’t look for for the Orioles.
“It’s frustrating,” said Johnson, who set a club record with 51 saves last season. “Looking at what the guys have been putting into the games and the way the game unfolded, it’s obviously heartbreaking but, you have to forget about it and try to manage something out of the rest of the series.”
After Johnson fell behind 3-1 in the count to Goldschmidt to begin the ninth, the Arizona slugger turned on a 95-mph fastball that split the plate and lined it over the left-field fence.
“If I had an answer I’d tell you,” said Johnson, whose season ERA rose to 3.42. “I’m going to continue to work and I know what I put into it. I know it’s not because or effort or preparation or anything like that. Maybe execution. I threw the pitch I wanted to. I probably could have located it better. You can always go back and find things, strike one or this or that, but I had confidence in every pitch I threw tonight.”
McFarland (1-1), who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, was the last Orioles reliever available when he went into the game in the 10th. The long reliever pitched a scoreless 10th, but Goldschmidt sent his first pitch of the 11th the opposite way for his first career walk-off homer.
“I threw a bad pitch, left it up the middle, and he was able to get a lot of the barrel of his bat on it,” McFarland said. “It’s like any other night. I really have no idea going in so I was prepared myself for any moment. I was ready to go in and I just left a fastball middle.”
Davis’ two-run homer in the fourth put him alone in fourth on the Orioles' single-season home run list, passing Rafael Palmeiro, who hit 43 homers in 1998.
Davis has eight interleague homers this season, most in the majors, and four through the first seven games of this road trip. Of Davis’ 44 home runs this season, 21 have either tied the game (4) or given the Orioles the lead (17).
With two outs and a runner at second — and first base open — the Diamondbacks chose to pitch to Davis, and he made Arizona starter Randall Delgado pay, taking a 1-0 fastball over the right-field fence.
A day earlier, Davis hit an opposite-field homer to tie the game in the eighth in the Orioles’ 7-6 walk-off loss to the Diamondbacks. He also hit a 466-foot blast, the longest recorded homer of his career, in San Francisco on Saturday and smacked a tie-breaking three-run shot last Wednesday that fueled a 10-3 win.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy, a Tucson native, hit his fourth homer in six games Tuesday — a solo shot to lead off the fifth inning — and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
Gonzalez shut out the Diamondbacks for his first six innings. He allowed just a pair of singles in that span before the Diamondbacks rallied for two runs in the seventh.
Aaron Hill hit a one-out triple — the Diamondbacks’ first extra-base hit of the game — and scored on an RBI ground out by Prado. Parra followed with his eighth homer of the season, taking a 1-0 fastball over the right-field fence.
“I left a couple balls up and that changed the game a little bit,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez survived the inning and allowed just two runs on five hits in the outing, striking out three and walking none to record his 10th quality start in his past 12 outings.
He received help from third baseman Manny Machado in the sixth. With one on and one out in the inning, A.J. Pollock hit a ball down the line that Machado made a diving back-handed stop.
Hardy led off the fifth inning by taking a 1-0 pitch from Delgado over the left-field fence. Through his 10-game hitting streak, Hardy is 12-for-39 with a double, four homers, seven runs and seven RBIs.
Despite the loss, Showalter tried to put a positive spin on the night. He pointed out the defense, Gonzalez’s start and even mentioned that Rodriguez has had three good outings in his past four appearances.
“Unfortunately we live in that world where everything gets thrown out that went well when you lose, and a lot of things you didn’t do well get thrown out when you win,” Showalter said. “We know at the end of the day what the judgment is, and that’s winning and losing games. … You can constantly look half empty or half full and with with this group I’ll look half full.”
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