BALTIMORE -- One constant for the Baltimore Orioles in the past couple of years has been the club's outstanding defense, anchored by shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Hardy had just one error heading into this week, but he committed three on Thursday and then made a crucial error in the 11th inning Friday as the Orioles lost 4-3 to the Oakland Athletics.
Reliever Evan Meek (0-2), who came up from Triple-A Norfolk on Friday to provide an extra arm in the bullpen, was the loser by allowing an unearned run in the 11th.
Pinch hitter John Jaso started the inning with a hit to center field that he hustled into a double. Meek picked up a strikeout and then Alberto Callaspo hit a hard grounder to short that Hardy fumbled. The next batter, pinch-hitter Stephen Vogt, singled to left for the go-ahead run.
A's closer Sean Doolittle struck out the side for his eighth save in a game that the Orioles could have won twice in the previous inning.
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) who 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 contests.
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. Then, after Cruz was issued his fifth intentional walk of the season, Adam Jones singled to right.
Markakis rounded third and tried to score, but A's outfielder Brandon Moss made a perfect throw to home and catcher Derek Norris tagged Markakis just as he stretched his hand to the plate.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to argue the call and the umpires took one minute and 12 seconds to review it before upholding the out.
With Chris Davis at bat and 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.
The Orioles didn't get into Baltimore until about 4 a.m. Friday after a night game in Texas, and Showalter told the players not to report until 4 p.m. at the earliest.
Tough to say how much sleep the players got Thursday night, but their nerves looked a bit frayed in the third inning Friday.
Things got chippy in a weird exchange between two of the best third basemen in the American League, Manny Machado and Oakland's Josh Donaldson.
With two outs and Machado on second, Jones hit a ball to Donaldson, who gloved it. As Donaldson approached the runner, Machado attempted to avoid the tag and was off-balance when Donaldson slapped him on the chest with his glove.
Machado stumbled and fell backward. He then tossed his helmet while saying 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.
No punches were thrown and order was quickly restored.
Machado then 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 to give the Orioles 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 permitted 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, and 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. Home plate umpire Larry Vanover walked to the mound, and the situation didn't escalate.
Chen lasted into the seventh, and came out after a key defensive play by Davis at first base. With on one and no outs, Brandon Moss hit a broken bat grounder to the right side. Davis grabbed the grounder and fired to second for a forceout.
Reliever Ryan Webb retired two of the three batters he faced in the seventh to hand the lead to the usually reliable Darren O'Day.
The Orioles submarine pitcher walked the leadoff batter, pinch-hitter Coco Crisp, and allowed a two-out RBI double to Yoenis Cespedes to tie the game at 3-3.
Closer Zach Britton (3-0) pitched a perfect ninth, and then wiggled out of trouble in the 10th after a one-out double to Coco Crisp and a two-out walk to Donaldson. Markakis made a great running catch into the right-field corner to save a run and Britton threw a sinker past Yoenis Cespedes for the third out.
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