By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
11:33 PM EDT, May 14, 2013
Buck Showalter's first glimpse of closer Jim Johnson inside the Orioles clubhouse moments after his remarkable consecutive-save streak came to an sudden end Tuesday night was the sight of Johnson working up a sweat on the exercise bike in the training room.
“He's grinding out on a bicycle,” the Orioles manager said, “Getting ready for [Wednesday].”
Johnson's franchise-record streak of 35 consecutive converted regular-season save opportunities was snapped Tuesday night as the San Diego Padres rallied for two runs in the ninth off Johnson for a 3-2 win over the Orioles in front of an announced 19,096 at Camden Yards.
Johnson hadn't blown a save since last July 27 against the Oakland Athletics — before current starters Nate McLouth and Manny Machado ever wore Orioles uniforms.
“I think everybody knows how hard it is to do what people who pitch the ninth inning do all around baseball,” Showalter said. “Jimmy is remarkable. He's as solid as they come.”
After the Orioles (23-16) took a 2-1 lead into the ninth, the Padres (17-21) battered Johnson for four hits — all singles — in the inning. Another batter was hit by a pitch.
Yonder Alonso and Mark Kotsay opened the inning with back-to-back singles. It appeared Johnson might get out of the inning after inducing a 6-4-3 double play from Jedd Gyorko. But Chris Denorfia broke through with a single up the middle that plated Alonso with the tying run.
Two batters later, after Chase Headley was hit by a pitch, Everth Cabrera drove in the go-ahead run with a single that went past a diving J.J. Hardy at short to score Denorfia from second.
“He's nasty,” Cabrera said of Johnson. “He throws a lot of sinker down and a good slider. [Padres hitting coach Phil] Plantier said ‘Hey, we've got to attack the guy. Just hit the fastball. Hit the sinker. Go get it.'”
Johnson (1-3) entered the night having given up a run in just two of his 19 outings this season, and he hadn't allowed multiple runs until Tuesday.
“It was location,” Johnson said. “As soon as I got off the field I looked [at the video] and pitches were in different spots than they're normally at. It's about execution. At this level the talent is too good. You have to execute and tonight I didn't and wasted a good effort from a lot of guys on this team.”
With the loss, the Orioles fell two games behind the American League East-leading New York Yankees (25-14).
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman recorded his fifth straight quality start — a new team-high — battling through an early pitch count to yield just one run on four hits over seven innings.
Tillman, who threw 42 pitches through two innings and 82 pitches — including 24 fouled off — through four frames, dodged trouble early. He stranded the bases loaded in the second, striking out Cabrera to end the inning, and emerged unscathed in the fourth after putting runners at first and second with one out.
The Padres' only run off Tillman came on Carlos Quentin's solo homer in the second inning. Tillman grew stronger as the game progressed, retiring the final 11 batters he faced.
“Early [I] struggled a little bit,” Tillman said. “Felt like they were fouling everything off tonight. They put together some good at-bats, and I was glad I was able to find it there.”
The Orioles' No. 8 and No. 9 hitters entered the night with a combined .174 batting average, but they drove in both the team's runs Tuesday.
No. 9 hitter Steve Pearce broke a 1-1 tie with a one-out RBI single in the eighth inning against Padres starter Andrew Cashner.
After No. 8 hitter Ryan Flaherty drew a one-out walk, pinch runner Alexi Casilla stole second and took third when catcher Nick Hundley's throw scooted into center field. That set up Pearce, who took a 2-1 changeup to left field to score Casilla.
Flaherty hit his second homer of the season to open the third inning, an opposite-field solo shot to left field. For Flaherty, it was his first homer since April 13 and his first extra-base hit since April 30.
“There's not going to be too many nights when Adam [Jones], Nick [Markakis] and Nate [McLouth] aren't going to be on base, and tonight was one of those nights,” Flaherty said. “It was good to help out. Just came up a little bit short at the end.”
Tuesday's game was the Padres' first at Camden Yards since 2002. Making his first career appearance against the Orioles, Cashner — who was coming off 7 1/3 scoreless inning in his previous outing against the Miami Marlins — allowed five hits over 7 1/3 innings.
“They pitched real well tonight,” Showalter said. “You can see why they think so much of Cashner. Coming off a good outing, he put another one out there. He's a pretty good-looking pitcher. We knew coming in that runs were going to be a premium with him.”
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