Chris Tillman struggles in return from DL
BALTIMORE – Last year, Jim Johnson was nearly perfect. On Saturday night, not so much.
After the Orioles fought back and tied the game, Johnson allowed an unearned run in the ninth, and lost to the Minnesota Twins 6-5 before 40,704 chilled fans at Oriole Park.
Johnson (0-1) was the fourth pitcher, and he retired Jamey Carroll on a grounder back to the box to begin the ninth. Aaron Hicks’ grounder went under Chris Davis’ glove for an error. He struck out Joe Mauer, and after he walked Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau’s single to center scored the go-ahead run.
Instead of being the go-to guy that everyone gathered around for funny remarks about his hitting, Davis had to take the blame for the loss because of the error.
“I went back and looked at it and my glove was down, my head was down the ball just went right through my legs. It literally went right between my legs,” Davis said. “Just one of those things. I’ll wear it on that one.”
During spring training, an opposing scout noted that he was concerned about Johnson because his fastball wasn’t quite as fast as it was a year ago.
In Johnson’s first three appearances, he hasn’t allowed an earned run, but he has given up three hits and two walks in collecting two saves and a loss.
“If you look at the situations he’s pitched in, it’s not a perfect thing. It’s a hard thing to do. I think sometimes we take that for granted. I don’t. He came in during the big part of the order, and he did a good job,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“Should have been in the dugout. Snuck a ground ball through the infield for the go-ahead run.”
Chris Tillman, who had been held back somewhat in spring training with abdominal soreness, had a horrid outing, but fortunately for the second straight day, the Orioles offense helped negate Tillman’s poor work.
“Physically I felt really good, mechanically I felt like I was fine. All game long, I was kind of yanking, yanking my fastball and my changeup. Made some good pitches with my changeup but I threw it to the wrong part of the plate,” Tillman said.
Because of injuries and Showalter wanting to keep Tillman away from AL East opponents, he pitched in just two Grapefruit League games.
Tillman said he wasn’t frustrated with having to wait.
“It’s tough, but I’ve got another one in five days. That’s the only way to look at it. The downtime felt like an eternity. I feel like I want to pitch tomorrow’s game,” Tillman said.
Josh Roenicke (1-0) was the winner. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowing just a hit and a walk. Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for the save.
The Orioles scored two runs in the first off Vance Worley. With one out, Manny Machado single, Nick Markakis doubled and with runners on second and third, Adam Jones hit a dribbler just to the left of the plate. Worley fielded it, and instead of holding on to it, threw it wildly to first, with Machado and Markakis both scoring.
In the second, Brian Dozier’s sacrifice fly scored Morneau to cut the lead to 2-1.
Things came apart for Tillman in the fourth when the Twins (2-3) scored four to take a 5-2 lead. Ryan Doumit had an RBI single, Trevor Plouffe a sacrifice fly and Chris Parmelee hit a long two-run home run to right.
In the third, the Orioles (3-2) scored when Machado walked, Markakis singled and after Jones struck out, Davis singled to left for his 17th RBI in five games. The Orioles trailed 5-3.
Tillman was pulled with two on and two out in the fourth in favor of T.J. McFarland. The Rule 5 draft choice got the final out on a fly out to Markakis.
In 3 2/3 innings, Tillman threw 93 pitches, allowing five runs on seven hits, walking four and striking out four.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Orioles bailed out a shaky starter for the second time in as many days when Nate McLouth, Machado and Markakis singled to start the fifth. Jones singled for two runs, and the score was tied at 5.
McFarland was impressive in the sixth, getting called third strikes on Hicks and Mauer to end the inning. He struck out Willingham and Morneau in the seventh, too. In his 3 1/3 innings, he struck out five and allowed just one hit.
NOTES: Kevin Gausman allowed six runs, four of them earned, on eight hits in four innings in Bowie’s loss at Harrisburg. He struck out eight.
The Twins face the Orioles at 1:35 p.m. on Sunday. Jason Hammel (1-0, 4.50) faces Pedro Hernandez (0-0, 0.00).