By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
5:58 PM EDT, April 24, 2013
When the topic of winning streaks arose before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Orioles manager Buck Showalter insisted that his players don’t pay much attention to them.
“I don’t think they had a thing up there where they were X’ing out [and saying] ‘There’s one more,’” Showalter deadpanned. “Our guys, they don’t get too bogged down.”
But later Wednesday, a streak that has defined the Orioles’ resilience ended as they dropped a 6-5 decision in 11 innings at Camden Yards, snapping their remarkable franchise-record run of 17 straight regular-season extra-inning wins.
“These guys competed really well today,” Showalter said after the game. “It is what it is. Stay in the moment. I was proud. It's not something I dwell on. I know our guys don't. But I understand how it's noteworthy.”
After the would-be winning run was thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the 10th, closer Jim Johnson walked in a run on four pitches with two outs in the 11th for an anticlimactic ending to a win streak that provided so many thrills.
“I just had a hard time throwing a strike,” Johnson said. “Kind of lost feel and obviously that's a terrible way to lose a game.”
Johnson, who entered opponents to .115 batting average in his previous eight appearances, hadn’t allowed an earned run in his past 22 games dating back to last season and had allowed just one earned run in his last 37 outings dating back to July 27.
“Jimmy's been great this year,” Showalter said. “I thought he was pretty good today, too. It was what it was. He got a big out against some tough hitters there the inning before, and he got two outs there [in the 1th]. Just one pitch away. We had opportunities.”
The Orioles (12-9) finished their nine-game homestand with a 6-3 record and now embark on an 11-day, 11-game West Coast road trip to Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim.
“We'd like to win them all, but we held serve at home,” Showalter said. “Now comes as tough a part of that, going west and playing three good clubs. It's kind of behind us right now.”
The Orioles appeared on their way to a third walk-off win within the past week in the bottom of the 10th when J.J. Hardy, mired in a 1-for-18 slump, hit a two-out single to left with Manny Machado at second.
Machado was waved home by third-base coach Bobby Dickerson, but Blue Jays left fielder Rajai Davis’ pinpoint throw beat Machado to the plate to end the inning.
“[It] just one-hopped basically to a guy with a plus-arm,” Showalter said. “You've got to send him there, and he made a good throw. Sometimes you've just got to tip your hat.”
Pitching for the third straight day, Johnson (1-2) quickly retired the first two batters in the 11th before allowing a flare single to center by J.P. Arencibia. Munenori Kawasaki followed with a single past shortstop.
Johnson then hit Brett Lawrie with the second pitch of the at-bat to load the bases, then he wildly threw four straight fastballs to walk No. 9 hitter Maicer Izturis and force in the go-ahead run.
“It started with the Lawrie at bat,” Johnson said. “I wasn't able to get back on top of the baseball. I talked to [catcher Taylor Teagarden] about it afterward, and hindsight [being] 20-20, I probably should have thrown [a different] pitch to try to change things up. But in that situation, I'm going to try to throw my best pitch.”
The three relievers before Johnson — Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day and Troy Patton — each pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The Orioles bullpen had thrown 9 2/3 straight scoreless innings before the Blue Jays (9-13) scored against Johnson.
The Orioles rallied to tie the game at 5 with a three-run seventh, capped by Machado’s game-tying, two-out RBI triple that rolled to the wall in right-center.
Ryan Flaherty’s one-out double scored the first run of the inning, plating Nolan Reimold from first and chasing Toronto starter Brandon Morrow from the game. Two batters later, Nate McLouth singled home Flaherty to make it a one-run game.
“We were finally able to string together some good at-bats there in a row in the seventh inning and score some runs,” said McLouth, who was 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs. “They were able to score. We didn’t play a bad game by any means. Their hits came with some damage. We weren’t quite able to push that last one across a couple of times.”
Right-hander Josh Stinson, making his Orioles debut and just his second big league start, yielded four homers, the most allowed by an Orioles pitcher since Jason Hammel allowed four last May 30.
Stinson had allowed just two homers over 23 1/3 career major league innings, but the Blue Jays launched four well-hit balls into the seatsagainst him. He paid for a one-out walk to Melky Cabrera in the second when Arencibia took a 1-2 pitch into the center-field bleachers to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.
The Blue Jays then pounced on Stinson early in the count for three more solo homers.
Davis hit his first homer of the season on an 0-1 pitch in the third. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista both homered to left on first-pitch offerings in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively, giving the Blue Jays a 5-2 lead.
“The first two were sinkers I was trying to go away with,” Stinson said. “I thought they were fairly down [in the strike zone]. The Bautista one was all-around a bad pitch. The Encarnacion one, he just ambushed me. After giving up those home runs, I came back and still battled.”
After the game, the Orioles optioned Stinson back to Triple-A Norfolk so they can add an extra reliever for the start of the road trip. That move will be announced Thursday.
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