Mike Bordick's two-run eighth-inning homer ruined what was a nice night for Cal Ripken, with his three-RBI performance at the plate and the public's recognition of his streak.
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 came down from 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, one of Ripken's biggest fans, 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 it was especially nice that the Orioles were leading, 6-3, thanks to Ripken's 3 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 of his career, five of which have come against the Orioles.
It made a loser of Clark (2-5), who made his longest outing of the season (3 2/3 innings) in relief of struggling starter Scott Erickson.
Clark also struggled, giving up six hits, two runs and striking out three. 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," 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 (three RBIs).
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 -- after Bobby Bonilla avoided grounding into a double play -- 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 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 and scored two runs. Erickson departed. Clark gave up a double to Gates off Palmeiro's glove that scored another.
The game was tied at 6.
That's when Hoiles 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, just before the team's fantasy football draft. "It's like an on switch that won't go off. It's anticipation."