The Orioles are now 41-1 when leading after the eighth inning.
They were ahead 9-8 going into the top of the ninth before Jim Johnson was charged with six runs in a 14-9 loss to the Athletics.
Naturally, he was the focus of the early portion of manager Buck Showalter’s postgame session with the media.
“They didn’t really square up a ball off him,” Showalter said. “They had a ball chopped over there, and Mark (Reynolds) made a great play to start the inning. A flare down the line, probably broke his bat. It’s tough to fault him. Just one of those things. Things were going real well for them in that inning. Didn’t really do anything wrong.
“This is a hard job to do, and he’s done it as good as anybody in baseball. Pitchers deserved a lot better fate. A lot of borderline pitches that can go either way. There were a lot of things if you look through that ballgame. I was real proud of the competitive part of our guys. We get down there real quick and battle back and get down again and battle back again. A lot of good things happened. I was real proud of our club.”
Zach Britton allowed six runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“He jerked some fastballs across the plate that ended up in the seats,” Showalter said. “I thought he struggled with his command most of the game. He slowed them down a little bit with some off-speed stuff and had a lot of ground balls when he got the ball where he’s supposed to get it. But he’s better than that. He wasn’t real crisp with his command. Elevate a sinker and jerk it across the plate into the barrel of the bat, you’re going to have some problems, regardless of who you are and your experience. We had some really good at-bats to get a lot of opportunities. Pitching, just because the stat sheet says something doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen that night.”
Showalter brought in Miguel Socolovich with two outs in the sixth, and the right-hander immediately walked two batters and gave up a three-run double to Seth Smith.
“We don’t have (Darren) O’Day tonight, we don’t have (Pedro) Strop tonight. We’ve got two or three other guys we’re trying to stay away from,” Showalter said.
“He’s pitching well and he’s had four days off, and at that stage you don’t know whether you’re going to need some length or what. To tell you the truth, we don’t have a whole lot of guys physically that we want to put in that game right then from where they are with their pitch load, with their inning load. I think Darren’s had three of the last four days and Strop’s pitched back-to-back and Rick (Adair) didn’t like the way he was feeling today. We make those decisions every night. Some you don’t know about because of the way the game goes, and some you do. (Socolovich) will be better.”
The Orioles kept fighting back, but they lacked a knockout punch.
“It’s not always roses,” Showalter said. “The other team’s good, too. They’re playing as good as anybody and everything’s going their way. They’re in a good spot right now. But our guys, we were two outs. ... We got a ground ball up the middle, and we got a ground ball to shortstop through that hole and a chopper that deflects off a glove. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Maybe those breaks will go our way tomorrow. When you give up that many hits, though, it’s not all just that one inning. That’s the one you all are talking about because that’s the world a closer lives in.”