It’s not often that manager Buck Showalter sits in the dugout and watches closer Jim Johnson blow a save.
Johnson hadn’t squandered a lead in the regular season since last July, but the Padres scored twice against him tonight to win 3-2.
“They hit some balls hard,” Showalter said. “The first ground ball would be about the only one. ... Big double play ball on a ball hit hard and we had a chance to get out of it. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They pitched real well tonight. You can see why they think so much of (Andrew) Cashner. Coming off a good outing, he put another one out there. He’s a pretty good-looking pitcher. We knew that coming in, that runs were going to be a premium with him.”
Showalter will go right back to Johnson on Wednesday afternoon if there’s another save situation.
“I think everybody knows how hard it is to do what people who pitch the ninth inning do all around baseball,” Showalter said. “Jimmy is remarkable. He’s as solid as they come. And I just went by him up there and he’s grinding out on a bicycle getting ready for tomorrow. He’s got a strong mentality and we’re real lucky to have him. It’s an honor to watch him pitch and I look forward to hopefully getting a chance to watch him tomorrow.”
Chris Tillman ran up his pitch count early, but he got through the seventh and held the Padres to one run. He retired the last 11 batters.
“It didn’t look like he was going to be able to get through the fifth,” Showalter said. “I think he had 24 foul balls through four innings. What do you do there? It’s another challenge that guys have in the big leagues because up here, they foul off the really good pitches with two strikes and they make you make them again and again and again. I think people miss that a lot about the jump from one level to the next. I think that was a challenge for him. It’s hard to fault him for it.
“To think he would get through seven innings tonight and give us a really good chance to win ... We knew we were going to have to pitch well coming into the game with the way Cashner is throwing the ball.”
The two teams aren’t familiar with each other. Does the pitcher or hitter have the advantage?
“That’s a question that people have pondered for years in baseball,” Showalter said. “Somebody will tell you one thing or the other. Jimmy would probably have a different take on it. I don’t think there’s a real strong inclination either way.
“You make good pitches and sometimes balls find holes. But they squared up some balls tonight. Jimmy like he seems to always do kept it in the ballpark and we just weren’t able to get in position to catch them.”
The Orioles received production from the bottom of their lineup with Ryan Flaherty’s home run and Steve Pearce’s tie-breaking single in the eighth.
“Ryan very quietly has been putting together some very good at-bats the last two, three games. And Stevie is a quality major league hitter,” Showalter said. “We’d like to have that tack-on run in the bottom of the eighth, but couldn’t push it across. They pitched real well. It wasn’t any thing of us hitting balls at people and being unfortunate. They pitched really well tonight.”
The Orioles didn’t commit an error tonight. They’ve made only four in their last 24 games.