Johnson hits 2 HRs but Orioles lose to Boston 6-5

The Orioles had just wasted two home runs by Nick Johnson in a 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox, yet the mood in the clubhouse wasn't completely somber.

That's because the Orioles were going to get a day off Thursday, and they felt pretty good about going 12-8 during a brutal run of 20 games in 20 days.

A victory Wednesday would have given first-place Baltimore its fourth straight series win over Boston, but the Red Sox prevailed in this duel between AL East rivals.

"We had a chance to win two of them, so I'm proud of that," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm real proud of the effort and the way these guys have gotten after it for these 20 games. We knew looking at the schedule it was going to be a real challenge for us physically, mentally and emotionally."

The day off will provide the Orioles a chance to relax and reflect.

"We played well," catcher Matt Wieters said. "You want to win as many as you can, but a 20-game stretch is never going to be easy on a team. We were able to get through it, and now an off day is welcome to everybody to get a little rest and to be ready to go when we come back Friday."

Daniel Nava and Kelly Shoppach hit sixth-inning homers to turn a tie game in Boston's favor, and newcomer Scott Podsednik also connected to help carry the Red Sox to victory.

Nava batted seventh, Podsednik eighth and Shoppach last. The trio won't make anyone forget the home-run power of David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis, but on this day they combined to go 6 for 9 with three homers, four RBIs and four runs.

It was 2-all in the sixth before Nava drove a 2-0 pitch from Jake Arreita (2-5) over the right-field wall. Podsednik followed with a single, and Shoppach greeted Luis Ayala with a drive to left.

Nava and Shoppach each doubled their home run total for the season; the pair also connected on May 14 against Seattle.

Johnson's second homer, against Andrew Miller with a man on in the sixth, got Baltimore to 5-4. But Podsednik hit a solo shot in the eighth for a two-run cushion.

Acquired from Philadelphia on May 11 and summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday, Podsednik got two hits in his first start with Boston.

Wilson Betemit hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth off Vicente Padilla, and Alfredo Aceves got four straight outs for his 11th save in 13 chances.

Boston starter Daniel Bard (4-5) allowed two runs, five hits and four walks in 5 1-3 innings.

Johnson's first multihomer game since May 28, 2006, was not enough to prevent the first-place Orioles from losing for the third time in four games. With the potential tying run on second base in the eighth, Johnson ended the inning with a strikeout.

Talking about his homers, Johnson said, "Fastballs. Got some pitches. They were in the middle of the plate and I put some good swings on it."

Regarding the eighth inning, he said, "The last at-bat ... I just couldn't come through."

Arrieta gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. He's winless in four starts since May 2.

"Well, I think four out of my six innings I allowed the leadoff guy on base," the right-hander said. "When you're pitching with a guy on and no outs to start off an inning, you put yourself in a tight situation."

Baltimore used the speed of leadoff hitter Xavier Avery to take a 1-0 lead in the first. Avery beat out a chopper in front of the plate, went to second on a single by Robert Andino and worked his way home by tagging up on two short fly balls, the last by Chris Davis.

Boston loaded the bases with no outs in the second but scored only one run, on a double-play grounder by Podsednik.

Johnson hit a drive into the right-field seats to start the bottom half, only the third home run allowed by Bard in eight starts this season.

Boston tied it at 2 in the third on a run-scoring double by Will Middlebrooks, but Kevin Youkilis was thrown out trying to score from first base on the two-out hit.

NOTES: Nava has 11 RBIs in 14 games since joining the Red Sox on May 10. ... Orioles LHP Zach Britton (shoulder) is set to begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment Saturday with Double-A Bowie. ... Baltimore's Adam Jones extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. ... RHP Dylan Bundy, the Orioles' top amateur draft pick in 2011, was promoted to Class A Frederick from Class A Delmarva, where he went eight starts without giving up an earned run.