ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Baltimore manager Buck Showalter realizes how impressive Mitch Atkins was in his first major league start.
Yet, the end result was another stinging loss for the struggling Orioles.
Atkins, called up from Triple-A Norfolk to make a spot start, allowed only a run over six innings against the Texas Rangers before usually reliable reliever Jim Johnson took over and squandered the lead in a 4-2 loss Tuesday night.
``I'm real proud of Mitch. He took advantage of the opportunity,' Showalter said. ``He got out of there on a good note. Hopefully it bodes well for his future. ... I'll take a little breath at some point tonight and realize what a nice night it was for a young man coming over to a new organization, battle some injuries, make two or three stops at different places this year and get a return.'
Atkins struck out four with no walks in his eighth major league start. The right-hander had made seven relief appearances for the Chicago Cubs the last two seasons, signed as a minor league free agent last winter with Baltimore and then strained his left oblique early in spring training. He began the season on the disabled list.
``It felt like normal. The worst part was just waiting around,' Atkins said. ``But I felt pretty good out there.'
Johnson (5-2) had allowed only five earned runs his last 25 appearances before taking over for Atkins with Baltimore leading 2-1.
But after walking two batters, Johnson gave up an RBI single to Josh Hamilton, on the same two-out play that Elvis Andrus scored the go-ahead run. After Andrus slid headfirst into third, left fielder Nolan Reimold's throw ricocheted off him toward the dugout. Hamilton then scored when Adrian Beltre doubled to deep center.
``I didn't make any good pitches. Walking two guys is something I definitely didn't want to do,' Johnson said. ``Hamilton beat me there. It's deflating.'
Johnson gave up three runs, two earned.
``J.J.'s been great for us all year. He struggled with his command tonight against some great hitters. He's human,' Showalter said. ``We expect perfection out of him. But in a one-run ballgame, there's not much margin for error. The walks created a tough situation for us. It's uncharacteristic of him.'
J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters had solo homers for Baltimore off Rangers starter Matt Harrison. Hardy started the game with his third leadoff homer this season, his 13th overall, and Wieters started the fourth with his eighth.
The Orioles had 11 of their 12 hits off Harrison, the left-hander who gave up two hits to five different players.
``You get only a couple solo homers, and you can throw 12 hits out the window,' said Showalter, whose team lost for the seventh time in eight games.
Before reigning AL MVP Hamilton batted in the seventh, pitching coach Rick Adair visited the mound. Johnson threw three consecutive balls before Hamilton took a strike and then singled the opposite way on the next pitch.
Showalter once as Arizona's manager intentionally walked Barry Bonds with the bases loaded. But Hamilton got a pitch to hit.
``There wasn't a whole lot of help on deck, a guy who's hit Johnson well too,' Showalter said. ``You're kinda picking your poison there.'
The hustling play by Andrus came right after he made two spectacular defensive plays.
Baltimore's at-bat in the seventh ended on an acrobatic double play by Andrus, who got the ball from second baseman Ian Kinsler and had to hurdle over a sliding Adam Jones. After his feet came back to the ground, Andrus threw off balance, still in time to get Vladimir Guerrero.
``He did a good job getting out of the way,' Kinsler said. ``Vladdy's not going to be blazing down the line, so you've got time. He probably would have thrown it earlier, but wasn't able to get it out of his glove.'
On the play before that, Andrus went deep in the hole to backhand Jones' grounder and get a force at second.
Two nights earlier, Andrus had a key error with two outs in the eighth against Florida, a play on which the Marlins scored the tying run before a two-run double to the next batter.
Tommy Hunter (1-0) worked an inning after taking over for Harrison. Hunter was a 13-game winner last season who was supposed to be in the rotation again this year before being slowed by a right groin strain the last week of spring training. It was his second relief appearance since being activated from the disabled list Friday.
Neftali Feliz worked a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 21 chances.
Notes: Hardy's 13 homers are already five more than Orioles shortstops hit in the previous three seasons combined. ... Hardy has 11 homers in his last 30 games. ... Wieters, the Orioles' lone All-Star, had his fourth three-hit game of the season. ..The temperature was 102 degrees at first pitch, the highest at Rangers Ballpark this season. ... Texas 1B Mike Napoli paid for betting against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals. Someone else got to pick his walk-up music Tuesday night. Among the selections: ``Man, I Feel Like A Woman' and ``Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?' Napoli grounded into a double play and struck out twice while going 0 for 4.
The Associated Press News Service
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