It had been a nice night for Cal Ripken, with his three-RBI performance at the plate and the public's recognition of his streak. Then Mike Bordick made it his night, too.
The Oakland shortstop's two-run homer in the eighth inning powered the Athletics' 8-7 win last night, completing their first sweep of the Orioles in three years. The Orioles blew three-run and one-run leads in losing their third straight and sixth in seven games at home.
At least, with six games to go before Ripken is expected to break Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record, the pageantry was nice.
It certainly meant a lot to Ripken.
The Camden Yards crowd of 38,424 roared as the number 2,125 was unfurled on the warehouse in the middle of the fifth inning. The stoical Ripken lost control of his emotions, sort of.
He didn't really know what to do.
"It's exactly right, I don't know what to do," Ripken said. "They make you feel really good. They almost make you want to cry sometimes when you start to think about it."
Ripken shook his head in disbelief as the crowd continued to cheer, and the sentimental John Tesh music played. Then he tipped his cap.
"I try to tip my cap as inconspicuously as I can," Ripken said as he untaped his ankles at his locker. "You don't want to intrude on the game."
Ripken couldn't do anything to stop it. The Orioles stopped taking infield practice to watch the whole scene. The cheering fans refused to let the game continue.
In the opposing dugout, Oakland manager Tony La Russa, a big Ripken fan, joined in the applause.
"You appreciate the ovation and the recognition from everyone," Ripken said. "I think it's really cool, the way it all comes down."
And for Ripken, it was especially nice that the Orioles were leading during the ovation, 6-3, thanks to his three RBIs. Chris Hoiles' bases-empty home run the next inning would stake them to a 7-6 lead.
But then Bordick homered with two outs in the eighth off reliever Terry Clark. Bordick's two-run shot was the 14th home run of his career, five of which have come vs. the Orioles.
It made a loser of Clark (2-5), who had his longest outing of the season (3 2/3 innings) in relief of struggling starter Scott Erickson.
Clark also struggled, giving up six hits. The right-hander -- who seems to be wearing down after a busy season -- has failed to hold a lead or tie four of the last five times.
His manager defended his effort.
"I thought Terry Clark pitched all right," Phil Regan said, "but we didn't win, that's the bottom line."
The A's jumped out to another early lead on Mark McGwire's two-run first-inning homer to center. The Orioles stranded 10 base runners and blew most of their early scoring chances.
But Ripken wouldn't let them blow all of them.
The Orioles led off the second inning with singles by Ripken, Harold Baines and Hoiles, but scored only one run. And that only because of Ripken's heads-up base running. He took an extra base on Baines' single and then scored on Hoiles'.
The A's added another run in the third on singles by Stan Javier, Geronimo Berroa and a fielder's choice grounder by Brent Gates.
The Orioles led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles by Jeff Huson and Rafael Palmeiro, but again managed only one run. Ripken helped with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Huson. The Orioles trailed 3-2.
Then came Baltimore's breakout, 10-batter, four-run fourth, with Ripken again playing a starring role.
Kevin Bass and Brady Anderson each singled and stole second, scoring a run. Huson and Bobby Bonilla walked.
Then, with two outs, Ripken singled to right-center, scoring Anderson and Huson.
Ripken's third RBI was the 1,244th of his career, which tied him with Orioles hitting coach Lee May and Frankie Frisch for 83rd on the all-time list.
The Orioles scored another run that inning after Oakland starter Todd Stottlemyre intentionally walked Baines (the seventh consecutive time he had reached base, including the last four Wednesday night) to load the bases and then gave up another free pass and run by walking Hoiles. The O's led 6-3.
But Erickson couldn't get anybody out in the fifth. Eric Helfand walked, Javier singled to right and Berroa doubled to left, scoring one run. Erickson departed. Clark gave up a double to Gates off Palmeiro's glove that scored two more.
The game was tied at 6.
Hoiles would hit a moon shot to left field on a 3-1 fastball, before Bordick did him one better two innings later.
But in the end, it was Ripken's night.
As the games become less and less important -- the Orioles fell five games back in the wild-card chase -- the hoopla surrounding the streak becomes the only thing to look forward to.
Last night was the first sign that Ripken -- who professes to take everything one game at a time -- has gotten caught up in it.
"I have an underlying nervousness that wasn't there before, one that affects your sleep patterns," said Ripken. "It's like an on switch that won't go off. It's anticipation."
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Tim Belcher (8-9, 4.49) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (15-7, 3.52)
% Tickets: 5,800 remain