BALTIMORE - Jim Johnson's streak of consecutive saves had reached 12, and it appeared as if the Baltimore Orioles' closer had regained his All-Star form.
The role of a stopper can be harrowing, however, and Johnson found out once again it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world the Orioles are in these days.
Johnson entered Wednesday's game in the ninth with a one-run lead, courtesy of some late drama, but Cleveland overcame the deficit and sacked Johnson with another blown save. The Indians scored twice in the ninth and beat the Orioles 4-3 in front of 18,082 at Camden Yards.
Some of those fans voiced their displeasure when Johnson was lifted in the ninth, with a smattering of boos as manager Buck Showalter pulled him for Troy Patton.
Johnson blew a save for the fifth time this year, this time while trying to earn his 100th career save. It was also an attempt to seal another come-from-behind win for the Orioles (43-36), who scored twice in the eighth and grabbed a 3-2 lead.
Johnson (2-6) walked Michael Brantley on four pitches to start the ninth, then gave up a booming double to Jason Giambi to put runners on second and third. After an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Carlos Santana, Johnson got Lonnie Chisenhall to ground to second. Alexi Casilla flipped to J.J. Hardy for the force, but Chisenhall beat Hardy's throw to first and Brantley scored to tie the game at 3-3.
Drew Stubbs, the Indians' No. 9 hitter, hit another ground ball, this one to third baseman Manny Machado. He forced Chisenhall out at second but Stubbs legged out the fielder's choice and Mike Aviles, pinch-running for Giambi, came home for the go-ahead run.
"The leadoff walk. Obviously, that's pretty much what led to the whole inning," Johnson said. "Lately ... it's uncharacteristic, it's something I need to work on."
Johnson had strung together a solid stretch of 13 1-3 innings in which he allowed only one run on seven hits (and 10 strikeouts) before Wednesday's struggles.
"When our closer comes in the game, Johnson, we're believing that we're going to win this game," center fielder Adam Jones said. "Brantley had a good at-bat, drew a walk. ... Late walks kill you, I know Johnson will tell you that. They came out and they had a plan and beat our closer, sometimes you've just got to tip your cap to that."
With two outs in the eighth, Machado's two-out single to left scored Chris Dickerson and put the Orioles on top 3-2. They tied it one batter earlier when Nick Markakis' fielder's choice scored Hardy - thanks to a hard slide at second by Casilla.
All of this came after Cleveland left-hander Kazmir twirled six no-hit innings and flustered Baltimore's bats. Kazmir left the game after taking the mound in the eighth with back spasms, and Indians manager Terry Francona went to right-hander Joe Smith (4-0).
He gave up the lead, but Johnson's inability to close allowed the Indians (40-37) to pull out the victory.
Orioles starter Jason Hammel didn't factor in the decision but pitched seven innings and struck out five. He left facing a 2-0 deficit, allowing a two-run homer from Jason Kipnis in the fourth, but Baltimore's offense kept him from a loss with the two-run eighth.
In fact, Hammel matched Kazmir with three perfect innings to start the game and retired 10 in a row.
Johnson came in looking to clinch Baltimore's second straight win. Instead, the Tribe handed the Orioles their fifth loss in six games.
"I came real close to keeping it tied," Johnson said. "But obviously I dug myself my own hole. Hammel did a great job tonight and it takes away from his pitching performance. On both sides. It kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth."
Showalter didn't waver when asked about Johnson's role with the team despite a relapse of his struggles in May, when he blew four saves in 13 days.
"Jimmy's been solid for us. He's a rock," Showalter said. "And he'll be back, and pitch, and be a part of contributing hopefully to a good club."
- Jim Johnson
- Baltimore Orioles
- Cleveland Indians
- Michael Brantley
- Jason Hammel
- J.J. Hardy
- Buck Showalter
- Lonnie Chisenhall
- Alexi Casilla
- Drew Stubbs
- Jason Giambi
- Mike Aviles
- Chris Dickerson
- Carlos Santana
- Joe Smith (baseball)
- Troy Patton
- Jason Kipnis
- Terry Francona
- Oriole Park at Camden Yards