BALTIMORE - Last season, the Baltimore Orioles bullpen, anchored by closer Jim Johnson, was nearly unstoppable. Game after game, Orioles relievers carried the team to wins, particularly during a 16-game extra-inning game win streak to end the year.
This season, it's been different, especially as of late, as several of Baltimore's relievers have been inefficient, particularly Johnson. And it cost the Orioles another game Monday night against the New York Yankees.
Johnson blew his third consecutive save attempt, Pedro Strop gave up the winning run in the 10th inning, and the Orioles lost their sixth straight game 5-4 before 23,133 at Camden Yards.
It is the first time Baltimore (23-21) has lost six in a row since May 26-June 1, 2012.
"Three of them are my fault," Johnson said. "I'm just not pulling my weight. I'll figure it out."
Johnson gave up a game-tying solo home run in the ninth to Yankees designated hitter Travis Hafner on a 3-1 pitch. Then, Strop (0-2) gave up an RBI ground-rule double to Vernon Wells with no outs in the 10th, after Ichiro Suzuki had led off the inning with a double to right field.
"You're talking about two guys there who are pretty good hitters," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Johnson had converted 35 straight saves, but has now blown three in the span of a week, and is 14 for 17 on the season. In his last three outings, Johnson has given up eight runs on nine hits in 2 1-3 innings.
The Orioles have allowed 10 runs in the ninth inning in the last six games.
Strop entered the game having given up one run in his last 13 appearances. On Monday, he was charged with two.
Baltimore's bullpen was responsible for four of New York's six runs. Johnson said this has been one of the most frustrating stretches of his career.
"I haven't been in this position before," Johnson said. "I wasn't out there thinking about the last two outings when I was out there today, so I don't expect to be thinking about the outing before tomorrow when I'm out there."
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said it hurt Johnson to get behind in the count to Hafner.
"[He] threw a sinker that ran more than it sank and Haf put a pretty good swing on it," Wieters said.
New York's bullpen was much more effective. David Robertson (3-0) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win and Mariano Rivera threw a perfect 10th to pick up his 17th save. He is a league-best 17 for 17 on the season.
The Orioles had no trouble with Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy was 2 for 5 with a pair of doubles, both off Sabathia, as he hit third for the first time this season. His RBI double in the seventh gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
Hardy was hitting just .235 coming into Monday, but he had a .321 career average against Sabathia prompting Showalter to elevate him in the order.
Sabathia went 6 1-3 innings, giving up four runs on 11 hits. In the past, the Yankees lefty has had success against the Orioles, entering Monday with a 17-4 career record and 3.03 ERA against Baltimore in 26 previous starts.
The Orioles did not have the same trouble this time, as Sabathia left in line for the loss. Baltimore starter Freddy Garcia had a quality start, giving up two runs on three hits over six innings, but threw just 66 pitches.
The Yankees (28-16) scored their first four runs on four solo homers. Robinson Cano, David Adams, Lyle Overbay and Hafner all went deep with the bases empty.
"We had trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark tonight," Showalter said. "That's pretty much it."
Wieters said the entire team is struggling right now, not just Johnson and the bullpen.
"There's a lot of things that we could've done earlier in the game that could've given us a little bigger of a lead," Wieters said. "The whole team is not playing well as a team right now."