The final, frantic moment of another discouraging and depressing afternoon of Orioles baseball featured pinch runner Blake Davis sprinting around third base and eyeing the Oakland Athletics' catcher and his former Cal State Fullerton teammate, Kurt Suzuki.
Trying to score from first base on Nick Markakis' single that bounced away from right fielder David DeJesus, Davis never broke stride and picked up third base coach Willie Randolph's wave. However, he never reached home as Suzuki fielded the throw, blocked Davis before he reached the plate and applied the tag, a fitting end to the Orioles' sloppy 6-5 loss in front of a sun-drenched announced crowd of 20,448 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
"The first thing on my mind, for me, was seeing where that ball was going to be but trying to go around him," said Davis, who was pinch-running for J.J. Hardy. "He ended up blocking the plate. Looking back, it probably would have been a better idea to just go right into him, especially being the tying run."
As Orioles manager Buck Showalter pointed out, had DeJesus, who entered the game before the top of the ninth as a defensive replacement, hit the cutoff man after booting Markakis' single, the Orioles likely would have tied the game.
But putting another loss on either bad fortune or that one play would simply ignore what happened in the previous eight innings, when the Orioles, seeking their first series victory since June 24-26 and their first road series win since May 13-15, resembled a team looking forward to Thursday's day off rather than winning a baseball game.
Their malaise was encapsulated by one play, the circus act performed by normally reliable center fielder Adam Jones in the third inning.
On A's first baseman Brandon Allen's deep drive to center field -- one of many lasers Alfredo Simon surrendered -- Jones got too deep and watched the ball hit off the wall and bounce over his head. He quickly went after it but whiffed on his first attempt to pick it up, then kicked the ball farther away on the second. When Jones finally picked the ball up, he unleashed a wild throw that missed two potential cut-off men as Allen raced home.
"He's got a triple already. I just added it to it," Jones said. "That's a big run."
In fairness to Jones, he wasn't the only Oriole who had an ugly moment. Left fielder Nolan Reimold cost the Orioles two runs when he broke in instead of back and allowed Josh Willingham's two-run double to go over his head in the A's three-run first.
"It was a well-hit ball," Reimold said. "I knew it was with top spin, so I stepped in. By the time after the step in, it was hit hard and I couldn't recover.
You try to eliminate mistakes early in the game. They come back and haunt you later in a close game."
The mistakes weren't confined to defense. Mark Reynolds was thrown out curiously trying to steal second in a three-run game in the fourth inning. Hardy, who said his ankle still isn't bothering him even though his manager described him as "dead-legged," cost his team a base runner by not running hard out of the box on a ground ball that was booted by Jemile Weeks. The rookie second baseman had enough time to recover and throw to first for the out. Markakis followed with his 13th home run, a solo shot off Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy (6-6).
Simon certainly shouldn't be absolved for his performance, not after allowing the first five batters he faced to either reach base or drive in a run after the Orioles (47-74) had given him a 2-0 lead.
"It's kind of deflating a little bit," Showalter said. "You go out there and throw up a two-spot and give it right back. I could sit here and talk about how he had some good innings, but the body of work wasn't as good as it needs to be. Just up in the zone a lot."
Simon allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings. That included two solo homers by Suzuki, who entered the game with 10 all season.
"I just tried to throw, the first inning, my pitches for a strike, and they got a good swing on the ball," said Simon (3-6). "I don't think Reimold read the ball very good, but that's part of the game. I had bad luck."
In his previous three starts, Simon is 0-2 with a 7.47 ERA and has allowed 16 runs (13 earned) on 29 hits, four homers and five walks over 15 2/3 innings.
Despite all their other problems and another poor outing by a starter, the Orioles had the go-ahead run at the plate in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. In the seventh, reliever Fautino De Los Santos inherited McCarthy's runners on the corners with no outs, and with the A's (55-68) leading 6-4, he retired Craig Tatum on a pop-up to shallow right and struck out Robert Andino and Hardy.
In the eighth, the Orioles had men on first and second with two outs, and Grant Balfour got Reimold to fly out to the center-field warning track. In the ninth, A's closer Andrew Bailey struck out the first two hitters he faced before allowing a double to Andino and an infield single to Hardy. Markakis did his part by lining a single that brought in Andino, but the Orioles came about two feet short of scoring the run they really needed.
They Orioles have dropped 13 straight road series and are winless in 14 consecutive series overall. In the past seven series in which the Orioles have won the first game, they are 1-14 in the remaining games, few of those losses looking as sloppy as Wednesday's.
Asked whether he felt his team was ready for the game, Jones said: "I'd never say that I don't think anybody is ever not ready for a game. Everybody has their own style on how they play, and if they get ready or not. We just have to come out with more fire, especially in day games. I know we're all tired, probably didn't get that much sleep. The same goes for them. You have to come out ready to play and try to get yourself real hyped three hours before the game.
"It's frustrating as hell, trust me," Jones added. "But it's not going to deter us from playing the game as hard as we can every day."