BALTIMORE (AP) — Thanks mostly to All-Star closer Jim Johnson, the Baltimore Orioles were virtually invincible this season when taking a lead into the ninth inning.
Forty-one times the Orioles led after eight innings, and 41 times they won. That mark is now 41-1 because Johnson had a rare off night against the Oakland Athletics.
Johnson yielded six runs in the ninth, and Baltimore lost 14-9 Friday night in a back-and-forth duel that featured 31 hits and lasted four hours.
Adam Jones and Chris Davis homered and J.J. Hardy had three RBIs for the Orioles, who have lost four of five.
“It was a great ballgame. You’ve got to credit them. They battled,” said Baltimore’s Jim Thome. “They jumped out front. We battled. Credit us. We battled back. We did a heck of a job. For the fans, it was a great ballgame. Unfortunately, you know, this is baseball. It’s not very fun from this end.”
After Baltimore scored three runs in the eighth to go up 9-8, Oakland got six hits and a walk against Johnson (1-1), who recorded only two outs.
Johnson retired Yoenis Cespedes before Chris Carter and Brandon Inge singled. Derek Norris tied it with a bad-hop single and, after a walk to Brandon Moss, Jemile Weeks put Oakland in front for good with a single to left. Coco Crisp followed with a two-run single and Seth Smith doubled in two runs.
“I fell behind and a couple balls got through,” Johnson said. “It just kind of happened. It obviously wasn’t my best day.”
Jerry Blevins (4-0) was given credit for the win by the official scorer because Oakland closer Ryan Cook was ineffective in the eighth.
Carter and Brandon Hicks homered for the A’s, who have won 12 of 14, and Smith tied a career high with five RBIs.
“It was like a heavyweight fight,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Both teams just battled. It was one of the better games I’ve seen.”
Baltimore overcame a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the fifth, then fell behind 8-6 before moving in front in the eighth against an Oakland bullpen that was 7-0 with a 1.96 ERA since the All-Star break.
After walking Mark Reynolds to open the eighth, Sean Doolittle got two straight outs before Nick Markakis singled. Cook then gave up an RBI single to Hardy and went to 0-2 on Thome before yielding the game-tying single. Cook hit Jones with a pitch before Davis lined a single to left to bring home Hardy.
Thome was thrown out at the plate on a play that wasn’t even close. The decision to send the 41-year-old slugger was questionable, but Oakland’s big ninth inning lessened its significance.
Baltimore used a four-run fifth inning to take a 6-5 lead against rookie Jarrod Parker. After singles by Taylor Teagarden, Markakis and Hardy produced a run, Thome struck out. But Jones hit the next pitch into the front row of the seats in left to put the Orioles ahead for the first time.
Oakland answered immediately in the sixth.
Orioles starter Zach Britton was lifted in the sixth after walking Hicks with one out. Right-hander Miguel Socolovich, recalled from Triple-A Norfolk before the game, walked two straight batters to load the bases for pinch-hitter Smith, who fought back from an 0-2 count to hit a 3-2 pitch into the gap in left-center for an 8-6 lead.
Early on, the Athletics appeared poised for easy victory.
Britton opened the game by striking out Crisp, but Oakland’s next four players reached base and scored. Jonny Gomes walked and came home on a triple by Josh Reddick, who scored on a wild pitch. Cespedes then singled and Carter followed with his seventh home run.
Hours later, that first inning seemed like a distant memory.
“It felt like three games,” Melvin said. “Momentum shifted several times over the course of the game.”
Hicks homered on Britton’s first pitch of the second inning to end a 5-for-39 slump, and Davis connected in the bottom half. Twelve of his 19 home runs have come at home.
Baltimore closed to 5-2 in the third when Markakis drew a two-out walk and Hardy doubled him home.
NOTES: The Orioles designated LHP Dana Eveland for assignment to make room for Socolovich. … Orioles 2B Robert Andino (shoulder) will begin a rehabilitation assignment Sunday with Triple-A Norfolk. He’s eligible to return from the DL on Tuesday. … Oakland LHP Brett Anderson (elbow) made a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Sacramento, throwing 53 pitches while allowing four earned runs in four innings. … Orioles C Matt Wieters was rested with a tight right biceps. “We’re going to make sure it feels OK before I get back in there,” said Wieters, who is mired in a 1-for-30 skid.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)