The Orioles were close again last night.
Down to their final out against Seattle Mariners closer Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who was perfect in 14 save opportunities this year, the Orioles got a game-tying single from B.J. Surhoff to force extra innings.
But Kerry Ligtenberg forced home the winning run in the 13th when he hit Bret Boone with a pitch with the bases loaded, and the Mariners went on to a 6-4 victory before 27,417 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles had chances and missed. It was a good effort. They were close.
They finished with 21 hits but went 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position and stranded 20 runners.
For most teams strapped to a rebuilding effort, this would be an accomplishment. But the Orioles are trying to save manager Mike Hargrove's job, and it's games like this that could haunt these players long into the offseason.
"We swung the bats well, and we only got four runs out of it," Hargrove said.
"I felt like it was one of the better games we've played all year."
Entering the season, Ligtenberg had never hit a batter with a pitch. When he plunked Tampa Bay's Toby Hall on April 26, it marked the first time he'd hit a batter in 278 career innings.
Last night, Ligtenberg entered with one out in the 11th and pitched effectively until Ichiro Suzuki led off the 13th with a single.
Randy Winn followed with a double off the right-field wall, and with runners at second and third, Hargrove went to the mound to discuss the options. He had Jorge Julio and Buddy Groom warming up but didn't want to use them unless he absolutely had to.
"We went into the night with our bullpen thin anyway," Hargrove said. "There with Ligtenberg, the only two guys we had left were Julio and Buddy, so we tried to stretch it as long as we could."
Ligtenberg (1-2) walked Edgar Martinez intentionally to load the bases and then threw a first-pitch fastball into Boone's left elbow.
"We were trying to get the double-play ball," Ligtenberg said. "It was a little deflating and frustrating. It would have been tough enough if it would have been a hit or if he had taken me deep, but sometimes that happens. I tried to make the best pitch I could and it didn't work out."
Carlos Guillen followed with a sacrifice fly, giving the Mariners a two-run cushion. The Orioles threatened again in the 13th, putting two runners in scoring position, but Arthur Rhodes (3-3) got Brook Fordyce to ground out to third, ending a game that lasted 5 hours and 1 minute.
The Orioles have dropped 18 of their past 24 games. Ten of those losses have come in games decided by two runs or fewer.
Brian Roberts and Larry Bigbie each had four hits, but the Orioles finished with 19 singles and just two extra-base hits - a sixth-inning homer by Surhoff and a 13th-inning double by Deivi Cruz. The last time the Orioles had 19 singles in a game was July 3, 1958, at Boston.
The 20 runners left on base fell one short of a franchise record. They left 21 on base in an 18-inning game against the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 25, 1968, and a 14-inning game against the Chicago White Sox on July 6, 1992.
In the fifth inning, with the Mariners drifting in their own sea of listlessness, Winn and Boone pulled off a double steal. It happened just in time for Guillen to hit a two-run bloop single into center field, giving Seattle a 2-1 lead.
That hit ended the Mariners' 22-inning scoreless streak, which spanned through their final two games this week at Tampa Bay.
Suzuki hit a two-run homer in the sixth, giving the Mariners a 4-1 lead.
Surhoff hit a leadoff homer to start the sixth, Tony Batista hit a run-scoring single in the seventh, and then Surhoff tied it with his two-out single through the right side of the infield in the ninth.
The Mariners are 74-3 when leading after eight innings this season, but this time they had to put in some overtime to stay two games behind the Oakland Athletics in the American League West and a half game behind the Red Sox in the wild-card race.
Orioles starter Jason Johnson failed in his fifth attempt to reach his career-high 11th victory, allowing four runs in six innings. He allowed eight hits and four walks.
Mariners starter Gil Meche scattered 10 hits in holding the Orioles to two runs in six innings.
The Orioles got three scoreless innings of relief from John Parrish, but they stranded two runners on in the ninth and 10th and couldn't get him the victory. Batista, who had two hits earlier in the game, grounded into a double play before Surhoff hit his game-tying single in the ninth, and Batista flied out to right field, stranding two on base to end the 10th.
"We were in the game," Hargrove said. "We played well, we pitched well, we swung the bats well ... we battled all night long."
TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Jamie Moyer (17-6, 3.59) vs. Orioles' Eric DuBose (1-4, 4.24)