NEW YORK - The Orioles improved to 20-6 in one-run games, including 13-2 on the road. The lead was built partly tonight by Nick Markakis’ two RBIs, it was narrowed after Miguel Gonzalez gave up the back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning, and it stayed intact because Jim Johnson escaped a jam in the ninth to record his 31st save.
Here’s manager Buck Showalter on Gonzalez:
“I thought he was outstanding. We talked a little bit yesterday about attacking them and just being aggressive. You fiddle around with the strike zone, you’re going to have some problems, but he showed Matt (Wieters) that he had command of some other pitches that he could slow them down a little bit and they couldn’t sit on one pitch, and he commanded the ball enough on both sides of the plate. Good tempo, strike thrower. When he’s carrying his secondary stuff like that, he’s got a chance to give us the outing that he did tonight.
“It’s not his first good outing. We made a move halfway through the season to see if we could stretch him out for some depth. When you look at his repertoire and the way he pitches, talking to our Triple-A people, they felt like he might be a guy who could be a piece for us, so hats off to him and everybody. We’ll see. I think he’s had pretty good outings for the most part consistently, and I thought he was a couple glove saves away from having a good outing last time.”
Here’s Showalter on Johnson:
“Jimmy’s got a lot going on in his gut and his heart. I think he’s grasped the life of a closer, and sometimes it happens in the eighth inning. He’s competing. And the last pitch he threw to (Russell) Martin, that was probably as tough a sinker to get on as anybody. He kept the ball in the infield. And we knew we weren’t going to double off Ichiro. That’s why we played a little deeper there.
“These guys grind it and they got a reward for it tonight.”
Markakis is batting .364 with 13 runs scored since coming off the disabled list on July 13.
Here’s Showalter on Markakis, who went 3-for-4, embracing the leadoff role:
“Nicky’s not one of those guys, maybe it’s just our club and our lack of egos, but where they hit in the order and whatever, they don’t wear that around. It’s what the team needs to do. I told you before, I really got Nick’s attention when I told him, ‘You might get another 50 at-bats.’ He never said, ‘I’m in,’ or ‘OK, let’s do it.’ He just said, ‘Fine, whatever. If that’s what the team needs, let’s go.’ Now, if I drop him down to eighth or ninth, we might have a conversation. I’ve got that one.”
Here’s Markakis on being the leadoff hitter:
“I like it, especially on the road, because I get a few more at bats and catch up to where I need to be. After the first time through the lineup, the leadoff spot is out of there. It’s just a thing of getting in a rythem, knowing what you have to do in certain situations and try to get on and let two, three, four, five behind you get you in.”
Here’s Johnson, who stranded two runners after blowing a save in his previous appearance:
“It’s good to get back out there. Being a reliever, you have to have a short memory, so it was good to get back out there. I kind of wanted to get out there the next day, but it didn’t work out.
“They’re ahead of us in our division, so every game is a full game we make up. And obviously, it makes a big difference in the wild card.”
The Orioles and Tigers two games back in the wild card race. The Orioles improved to 29-23 on the road and 19-17 vs. the American League East. They also improved to 41-0 when leading after the seventh inning.