TORONTO — Baltimore closer Jim Johnson entered the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game against Toronto coming off two clean outings, including saving a one-run win the day before.
But Johnson walked off the field — as Blue Jays players ran around the field in jubilation — with an all too familiar feeling of frustration.
Johnson couldn’t preserve a three-run, ninth-inning lead, blowing his fourth save in his past five opportunities in the Orioles’ 6-5 loss at the Rogers Centre.
Clinging to a 5-4 lead with runners on first and third, Johnson was just one strike away from his 16th save of the season until Blue Jays No. 9 hitter Munenori Kawasaki slapped a full-count 95 mph fastball into the left-center field gap, scoring both runners and igniting a Toronto celebration at home plate.
The Orioles (27-23) were so close to heading back to Baltimore with a series win here in Toronto, but instead had to settle for a sour series split.
“That’s not the way we want it to happen,” Johnson said. “We should be getting on the plane with three wins here, but I can’t hang my head too long. It’s going to hurt for a little bit, and it should. We’ve got to get ready to play again [Monday].”
Johnson, who converted 51 of 54 save opportunities last season, already has more blown saves eight weeks into this season. In converting each of his first 14 save opportunities of 2013, he pitched to a 0.95 ERA. But over his past six appearances — which includes three straight blown saves — Johnson has an ERA of 21.60.
“You’re dealing with fractions here and there, so a little bit here and there and you get a different result,” Johnson said. I’m going to keep working. Like I said before, that’s all I can do is keep plugging away and trusting that I can do it. I know I can. It’s just that the results haven’t been what I’ve wanted them to be lately.”
During the Orioles’ four games in Toronto, the offenses ruled. The teams combined for 102 hits, a record for a four-game series between the Orioles and Blue Jays (21-29) at the Rogers Centre.
That made for a frenetically paced series in which the teams combined for 56 runs and no leads appeared to be safe.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who recorded his first four-hit day of the season with three doubles, a single and three RBI. “You would ultimately like to win this series, but we’ll move on and get to Washington and forget it on the plane. But that was a . . . good hitting team and at any time they can put some hits together.”
On Sunday, the Orioles went into the bottom of the ninth leading 5-2, but Johnson struggled with his control, recording four three-ball counts to the seven hitters he faced, allowing four hits and a walk.
— Baltimore Sun