Orioles 3, Indians 4: Jim Johnson blows the save, O's lose

This guy. - Rob Carr

They were almost no hit, they almost staged a great comeback, they did blow the game in the ninth.

After being no hit for six innings by Indians' reclamation project Scott Kazmir, the Orioles fought back to take a 3-2 lead late in the game, only to see their hard work undone by another blown save by Jim Johnson. The loss is the Orioles fifth in their last six games and drops them to 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East.

For two guys who each came into tonight's game with an ERA over 5, Jason Hammel and Scott Kazmir engaged each other in quite a pitchers' duel. Kazmir had the edge of course, retiring the first thirteen batters of the game before Matt Wieters walked with one out in the fifth inning. Hammel was almost as good, getting the first ten batters before "hitting" Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch (it looked to me like it bounced in the dirt, not on his foot) followed by a two-run homer by Jason Kipnis.

Finally, in the top of the seventh inning, down 2-0, the Orioles made some noise. It was starting to look like a real possibility that the O's were going to get no hit by Scott Kazmir of all people, but Manny Machado had something to say about that. He lined a double down the left field line with none out in the seventh, his 36th double of the year. Manny went to third when Kazmir botched a pickoff attempt and came in to score the O's first run on a sacrifice fly from Chris Davis.

Brian Matusz replaced Hammel in the eighth inning. Hammel had looked shaky in the seventh, leaving the ball up and over the plate. Thankfully no runs scored, but it was obvious he was running out of gas. It was overall a very good pitching performance: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K.

Matusz struggled, giving up a single to Asdrubal Cabrera and walking Jason Kipnis with one out, but he got Nick Swisher to ground into a double play to end the inning.

Kazmir came back out onto the field for the bottom of the eighth inning, but before he threw a pitch he was taken out with an injury of some sort (as of this time I'm too lazy to investigate further). I don't wish Kazmir ill by any means, but getting him out of the game was the best thing that could have happened for the O's.

Joe Smith came on in relief and gave up a single to the first batter, J.J. Hardy. McLouth (who is ice cold lately) popped out, but then pinch hitter Chris Dickerson walked. That brought last night's hero, Alexi Casilla, to the plate. He didn't homer again, but he did line a single to left field to load the bases. Nick Markakis tried to ruin it all with a double play ball, but Casilla slid hard into second base and Cabrera couldn't make the throw to first. Hardy came in to score to tie the game.

With runners on first and third and two outs, it was up to Machado to get things done. He did, lining a long single over the head of the left fielder. Dickerson scored and Markakis went to third, but both he and Machado were stranded when Adam Jones popped out. But the Orioles had taken the lead! Now they just needed their closer, Jim Johnson, to shut the door.

Oops.

Johnson pitched yesterday and while he got the save he did look shaky. He was worse tonight, walking the first batter he saw on four pitches that weren't even close. He then embarrassingly gave up a long double that was almost a home run to the corpse of Jason Giambi, putting runners on second and third with no outs. They elected to intentionally walk Carlos Santana to set up the double play at the plate.

Lonnie Chisenhall hit a ball to Alexi Casilla, and Casilla went to second base but they couldn't turn the double play and the tying run came in to score. I don't really understand why the infield wasn't playing in; it looked like Casilla would have had an easy play at the plate if they had been.

The next batter, Drew Stubbs, hit a ground ball to Machado. Manny tried to get the double play but Stubbs just beat out the throw at first, allowing the winning run to score from third. Sigh.

That was it for Jim Johnson, who was pulled for Troy Patton. Patton struck out Michael Bourn to end the inning, but it was too little too late for the O's.

If you were hoping Chris Davis would hit a game tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, so was I. Instead he struck out. He, Wieters, and Hardy went quietly against interim closer Vinnie Pestano and the game was lost.

In conclusion, I found this picture of Jim Johnson that I drew in September of 2009 for reasons I don't remember. But for today it seems appropriate:

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