In a bizarre game that featured two of baseball's best third basemen jawing at each other, the league's top slugger attempting to steal home and a near-instant walkoff review, the Oakland Athletics outlasted the Orioles, 4-3, in 11 innings Friday night, courtesy of something Orioles fans almost never witness.
The Orioles lost after another fielding miscue by Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was a day removed from a career-worst three-error game Thursday night in Texas.
“It's hard to look at all that [other] stuff. I've got to catch the ball, and who knows what happens,” Hardy said. “It's just really frustrating for me. We are all out there battling — that was the 11th inning. Pitchers threw great. And that happens. It's really frustrating.”
With one out and John Jaso on second base in the top of the 11th, Alberto Callaspo hit a grounder off reliever Evan Meek (0-2), who was promoted from Triple-A on Friday afternoon.
Hardy was in good position to throw Callaspo out at first, but, for a split second, glanced at Jaso, who was running to third. He booted the ball. It was a costly mistake.
“I got to watch the ball in. Make sure there's an out there,” Hardy said. “I tried to be too quick and was thinking about throwing to third.”
Pinch hitter Stephen Vogt followed with a single to left field to score Jaso, the eventual game-winner, and A's closer Sean Doolittle struck out the side for his eighth save.
Afterward, Orioles manager Buck Showalter refused to blame the normally automatic Hardy, who had just one error all season before being charged with four in two games.
“He's as good as shortstop as I've ever had, and I don't even think twice about it. He's one of the reasons we were in that game,” Showalter said. “I think the reason it comes up is because he's so good, and it makes you realize sometimes how hard it is to do what he does every day. And I certainly don't take it for granted. … You've got a Gold Glove shortstop hitting .300 right now. I'm glad to have him.”
Playing before a loud, announced Camden Yards crowd of 28,076, and at home for the first time since May 25, the Orioles (30-29) lost for just the second time in six games. This one came against an Oakland club (38-23) that entered the night with the best record in the American League. The Orioles are now 5-3 in extra innings and 12-9 in one-run games.
They tried almost everything to end the game in the 10th, including a surprising attempted steal of home by Nelson Cruz.
Nick Markakis led off the 10th with a single against reliever Fernando Abad (1-2) and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Cruz was issued his fifth intentional walk of the season, Adam Jones singled to right.
Markakis rounded third and tried to score, but outfielder Brandon Moss made a perfect throw home and catcher Derek Norris tagged Markakis just as he stretched his left hand to the plate.
Showalter came out to argue the call, and the umpires took 1 minute and 12 seconds to review it before upholding the out.
With Chris Davis at bat, on a 2-2 count from Abad, Cruz attempted to steal home, but was thrown out to end the inning, leaving the bat in Davis' hand.
“I thought I had a shot. Obviously, I wanted to let Davis hit with two strikes. [But] I thought I had a shot, so I went for it,” Cruz said. “The attempt was there. The third baseman was way over there. I just wanted to be aggressive and get something going.”
Showalter said it wasn't a planned play, just something Cruz thought he had.
“Saw it, felt it, went for it, didn't work out,” Showalter said.
The Orioles didn't get into Baltimore until about 4 a.m. Friday morning after their night game in Texas, and Showalter told players not to report until 4 p.m., at the earliest.
It was tough to say how much sleep the players got Thursday night, but their nerves looked a bit frayed in the third inning Friday when things got chippy between Manny Machado and Oakland's Josh Donaldson.