He had blown two of his 32 save chances heading into Friday night.
He has been nearly as automatic as a closer can be.
But on Friday he simply didn’t have sharp command, and the Oakland A’s singled him to death – five singles and a walk after getting the first out on an excellent play by first baseman Mark Reynolds.
“I fell behind and a couple balls got through,” Johnson said. “It just kind of happened. It obviously wasn’t my best day.”
Most of the singles weren’t well struck; they just landed where fielders weren’t. And Johnson said he kept thinking he’d get the next batter, and it just didn’t happen. He was asked whether he felt the situation snowballed on him.
“Eventually, with the results, it did. I didn’t feel like that at the moment. I felt like the whole time I had, up until they scored the go-ahead run, I felt like I was one pitch away,” Johnson said. “Even after they scored the go-ahead run I felt like we could still get out of this with the way the guys were swinging tonight. I felt like the guys could have scored in extras.”
Johnson was charged with six earned runs – two scored after he left the game and Luis Ayala allowed the inherited runners to score – which is the most he has ever given up in a relief outing. It’s the most he has allowed in his big league career since his debut, a start in 2006 in which he gave up eight earned runs.
There is a disturbing trend here.
Johnson allowed just five earned runs in 37 1/3 first-half innings, an ERA of 1.21. In his first eight games of the second half, after he pitched in the All-Star game, he’s been tagged for 15 runs (13 earned) in 6 1/3 innings (18.47 ERA). He has twice given up five or more runs in a game in the second half after giving up five total before the break.
Johnson, the ultimate straight shooter, was not too down after Friday’s performance, though. He shouldered the blame, but said he wasn’t worried.
“I’m not going to beat myself up too much about it because I think it’s an anomaly today,” Johnson said. “Knowing what my preparation was, how I went about it. I did everything except for make a couple pitches and obviously the end result wasn’t what we wanted. So I’m not going to focus on [things] negatively, there’s a lot of good that got us to this point.”
Here’s what Orioles manager Buck Showalter had to say about Johnson’s outing: “They didn't really square up a ball off him. They had a ball chopped over there and Mark made a great play to start the inning. A flare down the line, probably broke his bat. It's tough to fault [Johnson]. Just one of those things. Things were going real well for them in that inning. [Johnson] didn't really do anything wrong.”