They hit into five double plays, fell to a 4-0 deficit and looked listless offensively against Dave Otto, a pitcher with a total of one victory in parts of five major-league seasons.
But home runs by Chris Hoiles and Mike Devereaux brought them back into contention and the Orioles finally overhauled the Cleveland Indians, 5-4, on a strange twist of fate in the ninth inning to stave off possible elimination from the American League East pennant race.
A combination of an Orioles loss and Toronto Blue Jays victory would have officially ended their pennant hopes.
It was the date weird things are supposed to happen, and the Orioles had to wait until the final play for the most bizarre -- and luckiest.
With two men on base and one out in the ninth, David Segui hit a bouncer off Jesse Orosco toward Indians third baseman Jim Thome. It looked for all the world like another double play would result.
Instead, Thome lost the ball in the lights and Tim Hulett skipped home with the run that gave Gregg Olson (who had walked the bases loaded in the top half) the victory.
"I was looking for a slider that I could hit in the lights," deadpanned Segui after Thome's temporary blindness settled the outcome.
"Friday the 13th," said manager John Oates.
Thome said: "The ball was up high. I tried to put my body in front of it, but I just couldn't see it. I never saw any part of it. It's just unfortunate that happened to Jesse. He came in and got the ground ball and he could have been out of the inning."
The run was set up by singles by Hulett and Brady Anderson (who has a walk and six hits in his past seven plate appearances) before switch-hitter Segui pinch hit for Joe Orsulak when Cleveland brought on the left-hander.
It had been more than three hours since Ben McDonald scratched himself from the start after having difficulty getting loose in the bullpen.
"He had stiffness in the [right] shoulder, the same thing he had before the last two starts," said Oates. "Tonight, he never got loose."
Pitching coach Al Jackson said: "We warmed him up once, tried again and he told me it wasn't getting any better. We then cut it off. We had notified guys to be ready."
The guy last night was Anthony Telford, who allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings as the replacement. But the real hero was Jim Poole, who quietly went four scoreless innings to keep the Orioles within striking distance.
The Orioles fought their uphill battle against Otto and Rod Nichols and evened the game in the eighth on a three-run homer by Devereaux, who took extra batting practice yesterday.
"I was starting to lose something, so I came out early," said Devereaux. "I wanted to get my stroke back."
With Jeff Shaw on the mound for the Indians, Anderson pinch hit for Hoiles and singled. After pinch hitter Orsulak flied out, Luis Mercedes walked to set the stage for Devereaux's 18th homer, to right-center.
Hoiles had homered against Otto on a 3-2 count in the sixth.
McDonald's injury does not appear serious, but his next start may be in question. He was examined by team doctor Charles Silberstein, but nothing conclusive was discovered.
"All the strength was there," said Oates. "We've had a guy on hold the last couple of times. It had been Dave Johnson, but he pitched Thursday night, so this time it was Telford."
Additional tests will be conducted on McDonald's shoulder today or tomorrow.
In his first start in nearly a year, Telford was KO'd by the bat of Albert Belle, who doubled twice and knocked home three runs against him.
The Indians added a run on Reggie Jefferson's double, Aldrete's single and a force play.
Poole then shut down Cleveland, striking out two batters to escape the big jam and allowing only two hits before yielding to Olson with one out in the ninth.
Poole has allowed just 17 batters to reach base since his recall from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings on July 30.
Site: Memorial Stadium
Time: 7:35 p.m.
Indians starter: Greg Swindell (8-14, 3.44)
Orioles starter: Bob Milacki (9-8, 3.75)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)