Flaherty delivers with a runner in scoring position

If anything good came out of last night’s repeated failures with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, it’s that closer Jim Johnson ceased to be the center of attention among frustrated fans.

Manager Buck Showalter continued to field questions today about his club going 2-for-14 and stranding a season-high 15 runners. It was the topic du jour at Camden Yards.

Adam Jones, often criticized for his aggressive approach at the plate, is actually a .338 hitter with RISP this season, including .360 with less than two outs. Chris Davis is batting .367 with RISP and .393 with fewer than two outs. Manny Machado is batting .339 with RISP and .355 with less than two outs.

Matt Wieters is batting .232 with RISP, Nate McLouth .239 and Nick Markakis .262.

Ryan Flaherty was hitting .184 with RISP before stepping to the plate in the second inning tonight with runners on 1st and second and two outs. Flaherty lined an RBI single into right field to tie the game 1-1.

Wieters reached on a two-out error by Evan Longoria, who had shifted to the right side. Longoria fielded Wieters’ grounder and couldn’t get the ball out of his glove.

Showalter is almost certain to point out later tonight how Wieters ran hard out of the box and beat Longoria’s flip to first.

J.J. Hardy walked with two outs, and Flaherty made sure not to waste the opportunity.

Both pitchers have allowed an unearned run tonight.

Gonzalez gave up two more runs in the third to fall behind 3-1. Again, a walk hurt him.

Desmond Jennings was given a free pass with one out and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double to right. Zobrist moved to third on Longoria’s single and scored on Matt Joyce’s fly ball to right-center field.

Earlier today, Showalter talked about the tough balancing act involving Jones, who reached on an infield hit leading off the bottom of the second inning. You want him to lay off pitches out of the strike zone, but you don’t want to take away the aggressiveness that’s made him such a productive hitter.

“You can rob from Peter to pay Paul,” Showalter said, using one of his favorite phrases. “We like Adam. There’s never been a perfect player. And that’s why there are, every once in a while, some outs made in the game. And every once in a while, somebody does strike somebody out. Otherwise, we’d be here forever.

“I think sometimes I may have a little too much empathy, not sympathy, with how hard the game is to play. The same things you love guys for is the same things... They’re not robotic. They’re not some computer-driven cyborg. They’re human beings. This is hard. This is hard to do. But at the same time, I see their frustration. And it only compounds it if I and we as a staff and as teammates compound it.

“I love the things we’re doing, whether it’s Adam or someone else. Everybody is different. We weren’t talking about this in the past. Why? Because the expectation wasn’t there. They’ve created them because of how good they are and how good they’re becoming day by day. That’s why the expectations are there. You aren’t having those expectations of Joe Schmoe. They’re good players.

“Like Casi (Alexi Casilla). If you start throwing doubt in his mind about running, not running, is it the perfect pitch, is it the perfect situation? I tell them all the time, if you feel something... I got a right to shut him down if I don’t want him to go, but this guy’s got one of the higher stolen base percentages in baseball. If you feel it, you got it, let’s go. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve competed as well as we have.

“If you want to go first to third last night, Matt, on that ball down the line, go for it. Let’s go. Know you are going to be supported. There might be some times behind the scenes where we go, ‘OK, that was good, aggressive, but let’s think about what that did. That took the bat out of this guy’s hands.’ I want them to be themselves. I want them to let it rip. This is not a game you play timidly. It will eat you up if you do.”

Markakis lined into a double play after Jones’ single, with Rays first baseman James Loney making the catch and stepping on the bag. And so it goes for Markakis, who doesn’t have an extra-base hit since July 19.

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