NEW YORK (AP) - Boy, does Jim Johnson want that bunt play back.
The Orioles big closer failed to field Brett Gardner's sacrifice attempt with none out in the ninth inning and it was all downhill from there. Johnson walked Travis Hafner with the bases loaded before giving up a game-ending single to Vernon Wells and the New York Yankees rallied for a 3-2 victory over Baltimore on Friday night, handing the Orioles their third loss in four games.
``The thing that really changed it was screwing up the bunt,' Johnson said. ``That was trying to do too many things at once instead of just taking the out.'
Catcher Matt Wieters felt Johnson's inability to throw first-pitch strikes was more the problem. He fell behind David Adams before the Yankees rookie started the ninth with a single. After Gardner reached on the error, Ichiro Suzuki successfully bunted the runners to second and third.
Robinson Cano was walked intentionally to load the bases for the second time Friday - to vociferous boos. Manager Buck Showalter made a mound visit and Johnson promptly fell behind Hafner 3-0. He lost Hafner to make it 2-all and again got behind in the count to Wells, throwing two straight balls.
``I think the thing with Jim is getting strike one,' Weiters said. ``Once you get strike one they're going to have to expand, they're going to have to try and swing at your tough pitches.'
Johnson walked two - one intentional - and he also walked two in his previous blown save, on June 26.
``It's frustrating,' said Johnson, who has six blown saves. ``Been working since day one to get where I need to get but still going to keep working hard.'
Wells' hit set off a celebration near first base and snapped the Yankees' five-game skid against the Orioles.
Ivan Nova (3-2) gave up a two-run homer to Wieters in the second inning, but then shut the Orioles down for his first complete game in a spot start for Hiroki Kuroda. He allowed three hits, struck out 11 and walked one.
``It's unbelievable feeling, the way I've been throwing the ball lately,' Nova said. ``To put myself in the position I am right now.'
The Yankees' steadiest pitcher since last year, Kuroda came through a bullpen session Friday without problems. Depending on how he feels Saturday, he could take his next turn in the rotation.
Manager Joe Girardi said after the game Nova will ``probably start again.'
The memory of the long homer Chris Davis hit against him last weekend in Baltimore may have caused Nova to throw a little too inside to ``Crush' to start the second. After hitting Davis with a pitch, Nova gave up a drive to Wieters that bounced off the top of the wall, just out of the reach of Wells, and into the left field stands for a 2-0 lead. Wieters came in batting .429 (9 for 21) with three homers against Nova.
``I try not to worry about numbers, they're usually not too good,' Wieters said.
But that was all Nova would give up, dominating the Orioles with a nasty curveball. Nate McLouth's single leading off the sixth was Baltimore's only hit after the second.
Nova got some help from a steely defense. Luis Cruz, the latest fill-in for Derek Jeter at shortstop, made two nifty grabs of grounders and strong throws for outs in the third. Then second baseman Cano made a pair of difficult plays to keep the Orioles off the bases in the fourth inning.
Cruz drove in New York's first run in the fourth with a single to left field off Miguel Gonzalez. Wells, on second base, slid into home just ahead of Wieter's tag. Wieter's tagged Wells high on the leg as Wells' cleat scraped home plate. Showalter came out to dispute the bang-bang play with plate umpire Gary Darling.
The Yankees then loaded the bases with one out in the fifth against the pitcher with the best road ERA (2.99) since the start of 2012 - minimum 100 innings.
They came up empty.
Adams walked leading off. One out later Suzuki doubled to right field and Cano was walked intentionally. Gonzalez then fell behind 3-0 to Hafner before getting him to hit a fly to center field that was too shallow for Adams to test Gold Glover Adam Jones' arm. Wells then popped out to first base.
Gonzalez was done after six innings and 104 pitches. He yielded one run and four hits but tied a season high with five walks - one intentional.
``Miguel was fortunate,' Showalter said. ``But that's him. He's going to bend, but not break. You give up four (walks), I think five with an intentional, you have to consider yourself lucky to get through that with one run.'
NOTES: Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen (right oblique strain) will throw Saturday or Sunday and the team will then make a decision. If he comes out without any issues, Showalter said he could be activated from the DL in five or six days. Showalter said a six-man rotation was an option after Chen returns. ... Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez's third rehab game - Class-A Tampa - was postponed by rain.
The Associated Press News Service
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