Johnson can't hold lead as A's settle for split
Closer allows three runs in ninth after Moss' single breaks tie in 7th
OAKLAND -- It's been a rough beginning in Oakland for new closer Jim Johnson, who is 2-for-2 in getting booed off the field by the A's faithful.
In the books, he's 0-2, having recorded his second loss in as many appearances in a 6-4 defeat to the Indians on Wednesday night -- at one point to the background noise of fans shouting, "Go back to Baltimore!" and "Take him out!"
"Getting booed off the field is not going to help the situation," said catcher Derek Norris. "I think it's sad that he has to go through that here. Hopefully in the next couple weeks he'll change their minds and become the new fan favorite."
Johnson admittedly takes the blame, telling reporters, "We should be 3-0."
Following a break in play, with Tuesday's rainout resulting in a split doubleheader with the Indians on Wednesday -- the first in Coliseum history -- Oakland was within three outs of at least being 2-1. But Johnson, owner of 101 saves in his previous two seasons in Baltimore, quickly loaded the bases and proceeded to allow three runs.
That's five total in a combined one inning of work for the $10 million right-hander, acquired in the offseason from the Orioles for Jemile Weeks to replace the departed Grant Balfour.
"Tonight I missed a couple locations," Johnson said. "I don't know. I mean, trust me, I left everything I had out there, and sometimes you don't have answers. The only thing I can do is just keep trying to improve every time I go out and correct this as quickly as possible.
"I'll try to sleep it off tonight. I'm not going to be doing anyone any favors if I hang my head. These guys are playing their butts off. I gotta be me, I gotta trust in what I'm doing. It's going to get better, I gotta prove that to the guys, and be one of the 25 guys that is going to help us win."
Manager Bob Melvin plans to give Johnson every opportunity to do so.
If he's not pitching in the ninth inning come Thursday, it's only because he threw 29 pitches in Wednesday's meltdown. But the job remains his.
"It's been two games," said Melvin. "We traded for him for a reason. He does have a terrific track record and is obviously off to a slow start."
"He's had a couple hiccups, and I think, especially coming to a new ball club, he wanted to make a great first impression," said Norris. "I think [Grant] Balfour was a fan favorite. They got to do the Balfour rage, but he's putting a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
"He's very, very good. It's not a secret. It's just a matter of time that he lets that pressure go. When he puts so much pressure on himself, he tries to do more. And when a pitcher tries to do more, they fly open a little bit, their sinker doesn't sink as much and it gets elevated, and that gives good hitters a good chance to hit the ball."
With the A's leading 4-3, the fateful ninth inning began with Ryan Raburn and Nick Swisher collecting back-to-back hits. Jason Kipnis' fielder's choice ground ball put runners at the corners with one out for Carlos Santana, who drew a walk from Johnson to load the bases. That's when Michael Brantley hit a go-ahead two-run single. David Murphy added to the lead with a sacrifice fly, and Johnson was lifted for Evan Scribner, who closed out the inning.
Hours before, right-hander Josh Lindblom -- called upon from Triple-A Sacramento to start the nightcap -- had done his part, and the Indians even assisted the A's, too.
Miscommunication in the outfield on a routine fly ball off the bat of Josh Donaldson paved the way for what, at the time, was Oakland's go-ahead run in the seventh. And newly acquired outfielder Sam Fuld, essentially holding Craig Gentry's roster spot, made the most of his first regular-season start in green and gold, leading off with a triple against starter Zach McAllister and scoring in a two-run first inning and later adding an RBI base hit in the fourth.
Lindblom went 4 2/3 innings for the A's, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Drew Pomeranz followed with one scoreless inning in his Oakland debut, and Sean Doolittle pitched a shutout eighth in advance of Johnson's entrance.
"I left it out there," said Johnson. "It's not like I caved. I know what it looks like. Every pitch had conviction and intent. Maybe not every one of them was executed perfectly. It stings right now and it should, but sometimes it's how you respond to adversity."