ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter has done funky things with intentional walks over the years, issuing two in a row or calling for one in the ninth inning of a postseason clincher even though it put the winning run on base.
And he famously once walked Barry Bonds with the bases loaded.
So it wasn't shocking that he decided to walk all-world sluggers Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to load the bases with two outs in Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in the rubber match between two teams fighting in August for a wild card playoff spot.
It didn't work, though.
Following the free passes, left-handed hitting David Murphy drove a full-count fastball from left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz to deep left-center field for a game-ending single, giving the Angels the series victory.
"You are just picking your poison; all three of those guys have had some success against" Matusz, Showalter said. "But there is so much more to that ballgame than that."
The Orioles (56-54) have dropped to three games behind the Angels (59-51) for the second American League wild-card spot and remain five games in back of the first place New York Yankees in the AL East. The Orioles head to Seattle for the last leg of their three-city West Coast swing with a 3-3 record on the trip.
"It's tough, especially with them being ahead of us in the wild card. It's definitely a tough one," said Brad Brach, who combined with T.J. McFarland and Darren O'Day to throw 51/3 innings of scoreless relief before the 11th. "We held them there for as long as we could. Unfortunately, we couldn't come out with a win."
Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 11th, Orioles reliever Chaz Roe (2-2) allowed a leadoff double, but then picked up a strikeout when Johnny Giavotella fouled off a bunt with two strikes.
After being so good in the first half after his call-up in late May, Roe has allowed 14 hits in 72/3 innings since the All-Star Break.
"You've just got to put your head down and grind through it," Roe said. "We're at that point in the season where everybody's getting a little tired."
Showalter lifted Roe so Matusz, who had held lefties to a .131 average heading into Sunday, could face left-handed hitting Kole Calhoun.
Matusz struck out Calhoun, and with first base open, Showalter called for the intentional walk of the right-handed hitting Trout, followed by another to the right-handed Pujols, which loaded the bases.
Murphy was 5-for-12 in his career against Matusz and had already hit a three-run home run in the third against Miguel Gonzalez. But Pujols was 3-for-6 against Matusz lifetime.
Showalter said he didn't want to use closer Zach Britton on Sunday because he was in the bullpen warming for a full inning Saturday and he's trying to keep his closer fresh and healthy as the season wanes.
So there was no perfect option — and even Matusz said he wasn't sure what move would be made.
"With the Trout situation, I figured that's a no brainer and then Pujols, that's just the decision we went with," Matusz said. "We want to play the matchup there with lefty on lefty with Murphy."
The problem was that Matusz fell behind in the count, 3-1, and there was no place to put Murphy.
"I think once we got into the count that we got into, it took the breaking ball away from" Matusz, Showalter said. "That hurt us."
Murphy, a career .341 hitter against the Orioles in 171 at-bats, took a called strike and then fouled off a pitch before hitting the game- winning drive. It was the sixth walkoff single of his career and first with the Angels.
"I put myself in a difficult situation to have to throw a strike to give the defense a chance to make a play, and I just happened to leave a 3-2 fastball up in the zone," Matusz said. "And Murphy, you've got to give credit, he's been an Oriole killer all year."
Before an announced 37,154 on a gorgeous Southern California afternoon, both teams had their chances throughout the game, but couldn't capitalize.
Gonzalez lasted just 42/3 innings, and has just one quality start in his five, post-All-Star Break outings. Angels right-hander Jered Weaver, who was making his first start since June 20 because of left hip inflammation, flummoxed the Orioles through five innings with his array of off-speed pitches and low-80s fastballs.
He took a 4-2 lead into the sixth, when reliever Cory Rasmus surrendered two solo homers to tie the game. Gerardo Parra led off the inning with a home run to right, his 10th of the season and first since joining the Orioles in a July 31 trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Two batters later, Chris Davis added his own solo homer — a blast that landed halfway up the bleachers in right for his team-best 29th home run of the season. The score remained 4-4 until the 11th, when the Orioles missed out on a chance for a 4-2 record heading into the final leg of this West Coast trip, which begins Monday in Seattle.
"This was an important series for us. We would have liked to take 2-3, and the bullpen was incredible today," Matusz said. "It just would have been nice to get the job done. We've just got to get ready for the Seattle series now."