In a bizarre game that featured two of baseball's best third basemen jawing at each other, the league's top slugger attempting to steal home and a near-instant walkoff review, the Oakland Athletics outlasted the Orioles, 4-3, in 11 innings Friday night, courtesy of something Orioles fans almost never witness.
The Orioles lost after another fielding miscue by Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was a day removed from a career-worst three-error game Thursday night in Texas.
"It's hard to look at all that [other] stuff. I've got to catch the ball, and who knows what happens," Hardy said. "It's just really frustrating for me. We are all out there battling — that was the 11th inning. Pitchers threw great. And that happens. It's really frustrating."
With one out and John Jaso on second base in the top of the 11th, Alberto Callaspo hit a grounder off reliever Evan Meek (0-2), who was promoted from Triple-A on Friday afternoon.
Hardy was in good position to throw Callaspo out at first, but, for a split second, glanced at Jaso, who was running to third. He booted the ball. It was a costly mistake.
"I got to watch the ball in. Make sure there's an out there," Hardy said. "I tried to be too quick and was thinking about throwing to third."
Pinch hitter Stephen Vogt followed with a single to left field to score Jaso, the eventual game-winner, and A's closer Sean Doolittle struck out the side for his eighth save.
Afterward, Orioles manager Buck Showalter refused to blame the normally automatic Hardy, who had just one error all season before being charged with four in two games.
"He's as good as shortstop as I've ever had, and I don't even think twice about it. He's one of the reasons we were in that game," Showalter said. "I think the reason it comes up is because he's so good, and it makes you realize sometimes how hard it is to do what he does every day. And I certainly don't take it for granted. … You've got a Gold Glove shortstop hitting .300 right now. I'm glad to have him."
Playing before a loud, announced Camden Yards crowd of 28,076, and at home for the first time since May 25, the Orioles (30-29) lost for just the second time in six games. This one came against an Oakland club (38-23) that entered the night with the best record in the American League. The Orioles are now 5-3 in extra innings and 12-9 in one-run games.
They tried almost everything to end the game in the 10th, including a surprising attempted steal of home by Nelson Cruz.
Nick Markakis led off the 10th with a single against reliever Fernando Abad (1-2) and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Cruz was issued his fifth intentional walk of the season, Adam Jones singled to right.
Markakis rounded third and tried to score, but outfielder Brandon Moss made a perfect throw home and catcher Derek Norris tagged Markakis just as he stretched his left hand to the plate.
Showalter came out to argue the call, and the umpires took 1 minute and 12 seconds to review it before upholding the out.
With Chris Davis at bat, on a 2-2 count from Abad, Cruz attempted to steal home, but was thrown out to end the inning, leaving the bat in Davis' hand.
"I thought I had a shot. Obviously, I wanted to let Davis hit with two strikes. [But] I thought I had a shot, so I went for it," Cruz said. "The attempt was there. The third baseman was way over there. I just wanted to be aggressive and get something going."
Showalter said it wasn't a planned play, just something Cruz thought he had.
"Saw it, felt it, went for it, didn't work out," Showalter said.
The Orioles didn't get into Baltimore until about 4 a.m. Friday morning after their night game in Texas, and Showalter told players not to report until 4 p.m., at the earliest.
It was tough to say how much sleep the players got Thursday night, but their nerves looked a bit frayed in the third inning Friday when things got chippy between Manny Machado and Oakland's Josh Donaldson.
With two outs and Machado on second, Jones hit a ball to Donaldson at third, who gloved it. As they approached along the base path, Machado attempted to avoid the tag. He was off balance when Donaldson slapped him on the chest with his glove.
Machado stumbled and fell backward. He tossed his helmet as he said something, causing Donaldson to turn around. The two began jawing at each other, both benches emptied, and relievers from both teams headed to the field from the bullpens.
"Didn't agree on the tag. Right play, he made the right play, but just didn't agree on the tag that he made on me, and I just had to get up and confront him," Machado said. "You get in the heat of the moment and things start flying. It's part of the game, and you're going to have to continue."
No punches were thrown, and order was quickly restored.
Machado made a great play in the top of the fourth on a dive, spin and throw at third base. In the fifth, his bat did the talking with a solo homer into the Orioles' bullpen for a 3-2 lead.
The Orioles trailed 2-0 early, but Jonathan Schoop delivered a two-out RBI single in the second, and Davis took Oakland lefty Tommy Milone deep with an opposite-field homer in the fifth. It was Davis' ninth home run of the season and second in three days.
Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen allowed two homers to the first five batters he faced. After that, the A's had trouble reaching base against Chen, who lasted 6 1/3 innings and yielded just two runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out four in his first quality start since May 9.
Chen gave up a two-out home run to Donaldson in the first and a leadoff homer to Derek Norris in the second. He then retired 13 of his next 15, including 10 in a row, until Donaldson stepped to the plate again in the sixth.
Chen threw high and tight to Donaldson early in the at-bat, then did it again with his eighth pitch, grazing Donaldson's left elbow.
Donaldson flipped his arm pad to the ground and looked into his own dugout before taking first base. It was the first batter Chen had hit this season.
"I understand [that] if they want to pitch me in, that's fine," Donaldson said afterward.
Home plate umpire Larry Vanover walked to the mound, and the situation didn't escalate. No warnings were given.
The game just moved on, with both sides getting close until Hardy continued his suddenly rough defensive stretch.
Thursday's game "wasn't even in the back of my mind. I got past it. [Thursday] was in the past," Hardy said. "I just can't do that. I was looking to throw the ball to third. Took my eye off the ball. I just can't do that."