SEATTLE — It was 11 minutes before 2 a.m. early Wednesday morning on the East Coast when the Orioles' late-inning comeback against the Seattle Mariners fell just short at Safeco Field.
The Orioles rallied from a three-run eighth-inning deficit to force extra innings, getting back-to-back homers from Adam Jones and Chris Davis to tie the game. But the Mariners hung left-hander T.J. McFarland with a gut-wrenching loss on Austin Jackson's bases-loaded opposite-field single in the 10th on a ball that just hugged the inside of the right-field line for the game-winning hit to hand the Orioles a 6-5 loss in front of an announced 24,863.
Plenty of Orioles fans in Baltimore had surely opted for sleep over the final frames at Safeco Field while the Orioles offense was in the middle of a 1-for-17 stretch. Opening Day starter Chris Tillman had long been chased from the game back in the third, and catcher Matt Wieters was abruptly forced from the game at the same time with a right hamstring strain.
The Orioles (57-55) had the chance to come within one game of the second American League wild-card spot held by the Los Angeles Angels and within 3½ games of the AL East-leading New York Yankees. Instead, the Orioles were left to ponder a lost opportunity. They wouldn't have much time to think about it. The Orioles need a win in Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Mariners (53-61) to end their nine-game West Coast road trip to Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle with a winning record.
"You've got to have a short memory in this game," McFarland said. "Games like this hurt, but you're going to play one tomorrow. So we've got to get back at it tomorrow and get a W. … I don't want to be the guy who gives that up after a game like that. We played our hearts out, all the relievers, all the position guys. It's a tough loss, but we've got another game tomorrow, finish the series and go back home."
The Orioles bullpen had thrown 6 2/3 scoreless innings until McFarland allowed a leadoff double to Logan Morrison that landed just inside the left-field line to open the 10th. Brad Miller's single put runners at the corners with no outs. Mike Zunino drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases and Jackson laced the game-winning single down the right-field line, prompting a celebration near first base.
"Yeah, three pitches in, I was already first and third with nobody out," McFarland said. "But I made some good pitches and they got some hits off me. I don't have any regrets in terms of location of pitches. Two balls down each foul line. That's a tough one to lose there, especially with the guys coming back. The heart was there for sure."
The Orioles entered the eighth inning with just one hit since Manny Machado's two-out single in the second inning. But after Gerardo Parra drew a one-out walk, Jones crushed a 2-1 pitch from Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen into the Seattle bullpen in left field for his 19th homer of the season.
Despite Seattle bringing in lefty Joe Beimel to face him, Davis then launched his 31st homer of the season on a towering shot to right field, awakening speckled spots of orange in the Safeco Field crowd. It was Davis' seventh homer against a left-hander this season.
Davis now has 12 homers and 30 RBIs over his past 20 games dating to July 22.
Tillman, who has been dominant against the Mariners in his career, lasted just 2 1/3 innings after getting pelted with a line drive during a four-run bottom of the first. Catcher Matt Wieters was also forced from the game with a right hamstring strain.
"It's frustrating," Tillman said. "I felt like I was making some progress, making some headway and the ankle thing popped up and now this. We'll see how I come in tomorrow and we'll go from there."
Tillman, making his first start since July 29 after missing his last turn in the rotation with a sprained left ankle, was handed a 2-0 lead before he took the mound following Jonathan Schoop's two-run, two-out single in the first inning off Seattle starter Taijaun Walker.
Tillman, who entered the night 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA in seven career outings against a Mariners team that dealt him to Baltimore in 2008, retired the first two batters he faced. But he allowed a solo homer to former Oriole Nelson Cruz, his major league-leading 34th of the season, to cut the lead to one.
Robinson Cano then rifled a comebacker that struck Tillman in the lower right triceps muscle. He was evaluated by trainer Brian Ebel and remained in the game. But three batters later, Tillman yielded a three-run homer to Mariners designated hitter Mark Trumbo, the first two home runs Tillman has allowed in seven starts.
Despite admitting the muscle felt tight after the game, Tillman wouldn't use getting hit as an excuse.
"It might have [affected me] a little bit, but not enough to make that big of an effect on the quality of my pitches," Tillman said. "I felt like I was able to keep going. I just wasn't making quality pitches. … It's tight [now], but that's expected. I expect it to be tight the next couple days, but based on how it feels right now, I'll see how I come in tomorrow."
Miller's leadoff double in the second, a tailing line drive that deflected off Nolan Reimold's glove, led to another run on Kyle Seager's sacrifice fly. Tillman ran into trouble again in the third, allowing back-to-back singles to Cano and Seth Smith to open the inning.
On the next play, Wieters hopped up from behind the plate to field a Trumbo grounder in front of the mound and grimaced as he threw to first. As manager Buck Showalter went to the mound to pull Tillman, he also replaced Wieters with Caleb Joseph. Wieters said after the game that his hamstring has been bothering him for the past few days.
Despite a 33-pitch first inning, Walker somehow lasted six innings, allowing just two hits after the first inning. After allowing a single to Machado with two outs in the second inning, Walker retired 13 of his final 14 batters, including 11 straight.
Tillman's short start forced the Orioles to use four relievers, but they held the Mariners scoreless over 6 2/3 innings before Seattle scored in the 10th.
Left-hander Brian Matusz retired seven of the eight batters he faced, striking out four to keep the game close. Rookie Mychal Givens (1 1/3 scoreless innings), right-hander Brad Brach (1 2/3 scoreless innings) and McFarland also did their job to keep the Orioles within striking distance before the 10th-inning rally.