All season long, the Orioles have extracted nearly the maximum from nearly every situation presented to them.
Last night, the second-worst team in the American League, the Cleveland Indians, gave them opportunity after opportunity to get a win and move two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.
But the Orioles' six-game winning streak toppled under the weight of bad base-running and botched chances to advance runners, and they lost, 5-4, to the Indians in 13 innings.
The 45,755 who piled into Oriole Park saw:
* Gregg Olson blow his fifth save chance in his past 12 tries.
* The Orioles lose for the fourth time since July 4 when they led going into the oppostion's final at-bat.
* The Indians win their first game in 52 tries this season when they trailed going into the ninth.
Thrown in for good measure, the Orioles hit into the 14th triple play in club history in the sixth, which wiped out a bases-loaded, no-out situation.
Just another day at the park.
"The bottom line is we didn't play very well tonight. We didn't hit in clutch situations . . . we didn't get a man over to third base. You can't do those things in a one-run game," manager Johnny Oates said.
"That was a tough one. We had the lead, and we should have put it away," said Tim Hulett, who went 2-for-5 in his first appearance since the death of his son Sam three weeks ago.
Alan Mills, who hadn't pitched since last Saturday in Boston, got the hard-luck loss, though he was hardly to blame for what happened.
In a game of strange breaks, the Indians got the last one in the 13th, when leadoff hitter Tom Howard slapped a blooper to left-center. Mike Devereaux dived for the ball, which landed just in front of him for a double.
One batter later, Paul Sorrento, who got the first hit and first home run in Camden Yards history in April, knocked in Howard with a single to right, through a drawn-in infield.
"To win an extra-inning game, you need a break or two. We caught one with Devereaux almost catching that ball," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said.
Of course, the Indians wouldn't have been in that position if Olson hadn't given up the tying run in the ninth, when Mark Whiten doubled to right, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.
"He's our closer. That's the kind of situation you want, a one-run lead with him coming in. He just didn't get the job done," Oates said.
But Olson would have gotten off the hook if the Orioles hadn't squandered scoring chances in the 11th and 12th, with a runner at third in both innings.
The Orioles started each inning with base hits -- a single by David Segui in the 11th and a double by Brady Anderson in the 12th -- but each time came up empty, because Leo Gomez, who popped up to first in the 11th, and Devereaux, who grounded back to the pitcher in the 12th, could not advance the runners.
The height of the Orioles' frustration came in the sixth, when Jose Mesa, making his first appearance in Baltimore since being traded to Cleveland on July 14 for minor-league outfielder Kyle Washington, loaded the bases with no one out.
Two runs had already scored and the Orioles seemed primed for a big inning when the most unlikely of things happened.
Anderson hit a fly ball to medium center field. Kenny Lofton made the catch and tried to get Gomez at the plate, rather than hit a cutoff man and keep the runners from advancing.
"I didn't think he'd be throwing to the plate. Normally, he would go to third on the play," Oates said.
But Lofton did go home and nailed Gomez, who was tagged out by catcher Sandy Alomar, who blocked the plate brilliantly.
Hulett, who was on second when the play started, held up waiting to see where the ball would be thrown. Jeff Tackett broke for second after the throw came home and appeared to be caught in a rundown.
Hulett then headed for third and was tagged out for the Orioles first triple play since May 7, 1979, when Gary Roenicke grounded into an around-the-horn triple play against the Oakland Athletics at MemorialStadium.
"I really didn't expect him [Lofton] to throw to the plate. I didn't want to run into an out, but I wanted to make sure the throw cleared the cutoff man," Hulett said.
The game's wacky outcome obscured the performances of Mesa, who gave up four runs, four hits and seven walks in five innings, and Oriole starter Ben McDonald, who lasted 5 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs and eight hits.
Orioles third: Tackett grounded out to pitcher Mesa. Anderson walked. Devereaux flied out to center fielder Lofton. Anderson stole second. C.Ripken doubled down the left field line, Anderson scored. G.Davis doubled down the left field line, C.Ripken scored. Milligan walked. Orsulak popped out to second baseman Baerga. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Orioles 2, Indians 0.
Indians fifth: Whiten doubled to right. Thome struck out, Thome safe at first, Whiten to third on Tackett's passed ball. Lewis grounded into double play, second baseman Hulett to shortstop C.Ripken to first baseman Milligan, Whiten scored, Thome forced at second. Alomar singled to left. Lofton grounded out to second baseman Hulett. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 2, Indians 1.
Indians sixth: Howard singled to right. Baerga doubled to right center, Howard to third, Howard out at home, right fielder Orsulak to shortstop C.Ripken to catcher Tackett. Sorrento singled to center, Baerga scored. Hill fouled out to second baseman Hulett. Whiten walked, Sorrento to second. Thome singled to right, Sorrento scored, Whiten to third, Thome to second on throw home. S.Davis relieved McDonald. Lewis struck out. 2 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Indians 3, Orioles 2.
Orioles sixth: Milligan walked. Orsulak singled to right, Milligan to second. Gomez walked, Milligan to third, Orsulak to second. Power relieved Mesa. Hulett singled to right center, Milligan scored, Orsulak to third, Gomez to second. Tackett singled to right, Orsulak scored, Gomez to third, Hulett to second. Anderson flied out into to center fielder Lofton into triple play, Gomez out at home, center fielder Lofton to catcher Alomar, Hulett out at third, catcher Alomar to second baseman Baerga to third baseman Thome. 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 4, Indians 3.
Indians ninth: Segui to first base. Olson pitching. Whiten doubled down the right field line. Whiten to third on Olson's wild pitch. Thome struck out to catcher Tackett. Martinez, pinch hitting for Lewis, hit sacrifice fly to center fielder Devereaux, Whiten scored. Alomar singled to left. Alomar stole second. Lofton grounded out to second baseman Hulett. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Indians 4, Orioles 4.
Indians thirteenth: Howard doubled to center. Baerga grounded out to second baseman Hulett, Howard to third. Sorrento singled to right, Howard scored. Hill flied out to left fielder Anderson. Whiten grounded out to first baseman Segui. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Indians 5, Orioles 4.