Rare Jim Johnson Blown Save Costs Orioles Against Padres
Thoughts from the opener of the Orioles' brief two-game series with the San Diego Padres:
Well, nobody can stay perfect forever. Closer Jim Johnson's regular-season streak of 35 consecutive saves without a blown save -- the longest streak in the majors -- came to an end thanks to the Padres' barrage of singles in the ninth. The Padres' strategy was to swing early, with the first two batters of the inning both ripping singles on the first pitch. A double play gave the O's hope, but Chris Denorfia tied the game with a single and, after Johnson plunked a batter, Everth Cabrera singled home the game-winning run.
Johnson wasn't at a loss about what went wrong.
"It was location," he said. "Pitches were in a different spot than they're normally at. … I didn't execute pitches, and they put good swings on the ball. You've got to give them credit. They did what they're supposed to do."
Johnson has been valuable to this team, and manager Buck Showalter didn't point fingers.
"Everybody knows how hard it is to do what people who pitch the ninth inning do, all around baseball," Showalter said. "We're real lucky to have him. You make good pitches, sometimes balls find holes. … Ground-ball pitcher, sometimes you have a night where they hit some balls hard. Kind of tip your hat to them."
What a bounceback outing by starting pitcher Chris Tillman. Through the first four innings of this game, Tillman looked out of sorts -- he'd thrown 82 pitches, he'd allowed seven baserunners and he just couldn't seem to put hitters away when he was ahead in the count. It looked as if he'd be lucky to even make it through five innings.
He ended up pitching seven. Tillman saved the best for last, pitching three perfect innings from the fifth through the seventh while throwing just 30 pitches during that span. It was a welcome sight for O's fans to see Tillman find his footing and turn in a dominant performance at the end.
The much-maligned Ryan Flaherty had perhaps his best offensive night of the season. Flaherty poked an opposite-field home run in the third to account for the Orioles' only run in the first seven innings against Andrew Cashner, and he was robbed of a hit in his next at bat on a scorching liner that first baseman Yonder Alonso caught. Flaherty also drew a walk in the eighth, and pinch runner Alexi Casilla scored to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
Showalter has taken notice of Flaherty's swings.
"Ryan very quietly has been putting together some pretty good at bats the last couple games," Showalter said.
In an article after the Minnesota series, I noted that the leash may be getting short on the slumping Nolan Reimold. Sure enough, Reimold wasn't in the starting lineup May 14, getting replaced by Steve Pearce, who rarely starts against right-handed pitchers (and who delivered a go-ahead hit in the eighth). Unless Reimold has an injury we don't know about, his season-long struggles may start to cost him playing time.
SO ... THE PADRES, HUH?
How weird is it to have a two-game series, surrounded by two off days, against a National League team in the middle of May? I guess this is just something we'll have to get used to now that the leagues are balanced at 15 teams each and interleague play occurs throughout the season.
Still, it's kind of fun to see different teams coming into Camden Yards. The Padres have made only one previous trip to Baltimore in their history, from June 10-12, 2002. That's right -- the last time the Padres played a series in Baltimore, Manny Machado was 9 years old. Now he's not only playing for the Orioles, but he's playing against his future brother-in-law (Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso, whose sister is Machado's fiancée).
Looking back at that '02 series brings back some not-so-fond memories for Baltimore. The Orioles' No. 3 hitter for two of the games was Chris Singleton; for the other, it was Gary Matthews Jr. Their starting pitchers included Travis Driskill, a flash in the pan, and Scott Erickson, who was barely hanging on. The Padres had starters named Dennis Tankersley and Kevin Pickford. Tony Batista ended one game with a walkoff homer; Marty Cordova ended another by taking three called strikes with the tying run on base in the ninth.
Amazingly, one player from that 2002 series -- Mark Kotsay -- is also in the 2013 lineup for the Padres. But he's played for five other teams between then and now.
Posted May 14, 2013 by Paul Folkemer