O’s closer proves there is only one Rivera

What Yankees fans never see from Mariano Rivera was what Orioles fans witnessed Monday night from Jim Johnson. The Orioles closer, who led the American League is saves last season with 51, sustained his third consecutive blown save, something that Rivera has never done, and the Yankees took advantage of it to come away with a 6-4, 10-inning victory.

Johnson was gone by the time the Yankees scored the deciding runs in the extra inning off Pedro Strop and Brian Matusz with clutch hitting by Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. Rivera kept the lead intact with his 17th save in 17 opportunities. Johnson began the season with a similar streak with 14 saves before coming unglued in his past three appearances.

Hafner dealt the crushing blow to Johnson this time with a one-out home run in the ninth, the Yankees’ fourth solo shot of the evening in Baltimore’s humid Inner Harbor air. Johnson’s latest failure opened the gates for the Yankees to improve their record in games where they get on the scoreboard first to 19-0 and extend the Orioles’ losing streak to six games.

The Yankees were in danger of losing their first game when they scored first because their offense was reduced to the long ball with no one on base and CC Sabathia blew leads of 2-0 and 3-2. Robinson Cano and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis entered the game tied for the AL lead in home runs with 12 and maintained that tie as each got his 13th in his first at-bat.

David Adams, the rookie who has done so well at third base and turned a few more good plays Monday night, hit his first career home run to put the Yankees up, 2-0, in the second, but Davis made it 2-1 in the bottom of the second and Nick Markakis singled in the tying run in the fifth.

It was a strange start for Sabathia, who allowed a double-digit hit total (11) for the second game in a row (23 total in his past 12 2/3 innings) and had only two strikeouts, although he did not walk a batter. The lefthander is winless in four starts since April 27. Former teammate Freddy Garcia actually pitched better. He allowed the two solo homers and just one other hit with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings.

Lyle Overbay’s leadoff homer in the seventh off lefthander Troy Patton put the Yankees ahead again, but Sabathia couldn’t hold the advantage as the Orioles grabbed the lead on RBI doubles by Markakis and J.J. Hardy. Shawn Kelley stopped the O’s there with two more strikeouts. He added a third in the eighth, which gives the righthander 15 of the past 21 batters he has faced and 33 in 18 1/3 innings for the season.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter entrusted the lead to Johnson, who began the ninth by retiring Cano on a groundout. Johnson fell behind 3-1 in the count to Hafner, who drove a 94-miles-per-hour fastball over the left field fence for his eighth home run. The Yankees were back in business.

Johnson’s woes have come after a run of 35 consecutive saves dating to last July. He has given up eight earned runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings (30.86 ERA) in the three blown saves, which has driven his season ERA from 0.95 to 4.22.

In the 10th, Ichiro Suzuki ran his Camden Yards hitting streak to 20 games with a leadoff double off Strop, a reliever who has struggled against the Yankees. Vernon Wells, riding the bench despite having good career numbers against Garcia (.438, one home run), came up as a pinch hitter for shortstop Reid Brignac and doubled to left to send home Ichiro.

Austin Romine bunted Wells to third, but Wells could not advance as Jayson Nix grounded out. After Cano was intentionally walked, Hafner delivered an insurance run with a line single to right off the left-handed Matusz. Rivera then showed Johnson how it’s done with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th.

Hafner. Wells. Overbay. There are those names again. Yankees fans are getting used to seeing these guys do important stuff.

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