The Orioles fell behind by three runs tonight and took the lead. They fell behind by a run and reclaimed the lead.
“There are a lot of warriors out there,” said manager Buck Showalter. “They’ve been through some battles together and you’re not going to see them give in.”
Jim Johnson retired the Athletics in order in the ninth inning for his 40th save after three straight blown chances, and the Orioles took the opener of this three-game series, 9-7, before 36,761 at Camden Yards.
Brian Roberts had a grand slam and his first stolen base in more than four months - a 41-game drought that was one short of his career-longest in 2004.
“I’ve been short-sampling. That’s the only thing. But I’ve seen him. I know. And I’ll tell you what, I’ve sat in the other dugout and I know,” Showalter said.
“I know how much it means for him to be contributing to our club and the type of situation we’re in. I don’t think anybody is enjoying playing competitive baseball and meaningful games more than Brian. And I think he would have felt that way regardless of the challenges he’s had physically.
“Brian, he’s been very approachable since I’ve been here. He loves talking baseball. When you’ve been around the game as long as he has and kind of grew in it, and it’s not there for you, it’s real frustrating for him. It’s a real tribute to how much he wanted to get back and contribute. I know we’re enjoying having him back. I can tell you that.”
The Orioles scored three runs in the seventh to erase Oakland’s 7-6 lead. The inning included Matt Wieters’ infield hit and a costly error on A’s second baseman Eric Sogard.
“I’ve said many times, the baseball gods, if you keep grinding, they’ll shine on you, and our guys have,” Showalter said. “They’ve never given in. Won a couple tough games in a row. When these guys’ backs are to the wall, I have a lot of faith in what they’ll bring.”
Bud Norris didn’t bring as much as his previous starts with the Orioles. He was charged with seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. However, the Orioles have won all five games that he’s started.
“Just command,” Showalter said. “He was elevating a lot of balls. He got in a lot of counts and he was right there getting out of the fifth, and he just couldn’t quite put somebody away. I think it was a high changeup for a home run. I think he’d be the first to tell you that he paid for his mistakes. He just never seemed to get into a consistent command or rhythm like we’ve seen him have.”
Johnson was in complete control in the ninth, getting a strikeout and two ground balls for his 40th save.
“The outs in the eighth inning were important, too,” Showalter said. “I thought the outs that Frankie (Rodriguez) got in the seventh were important. We had to get them all. It was a little frustrating for us to go back ahead 6-3 and turn around and give it right back, but I thought Frankie going out and getting those outs, and Jimmy got three at the end. He was real crisp. We’ve been able to give him a couple days rest.”
Johnson struck out Brandon Moss leading off the ninth on three pitches. He pounded the strike zone, got ahead of hitters and looked like the closer who saved 51 games in 54 tries last season.
“If you look at his totals, walks haven’t really been (an issue). But some counts have got away from him,” Showalter said.
“Jimmy pounding the zone, like he always tries to.”
Tonight marked the ninth time since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954 that the Orioles have scored at least nine runs on seven or fewer hits. It happened most recently in a 9-5 win over Tampa Bay on Aug. 20, 2003, when they collected seven hits.