Trying to keep his team from falling behind for the first time last night, Orioles center fielder Darnell McDonald scaled the fence in front of the bullpen, his body hanging from it as the chase ended.
No matter how hard he tried, no matter how far he reached, the baseball wasn't coming back. If it's any consolation for the Orioles, neither is Erubiel Durazo.
FOR THE RECORD - In an article Thursday about the Orioles' game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, the shortstop for the A's was incorrectly identified. He was was Marco Scutaro.
The Sun regrets the errors.
Durazo's third home run, a bases-empty shot off B.J. Ryan in the eighth inning, broke a tie and allowed the Oakland Athletics to complete their three-game sweep with a 5-4 victory before 40,603 at Camden Yards.
"It seemed like he was on every ball," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said, "even the ones he fouled off."
Beginning the night with 15 homers, Durazo connected in the fourth and sixth against Sidney Ponson to erase the Orioles' 4-0 lead. Ponson, who still hasn't lost since July 4, threw 104 pitches. He wanted most of them back.
"I didn't have anything today," Ponson said. "I didn't have command of any of my pitches. It's frustrating. They give you four runs, you should find a way to beat this team."
Ryan breezed through the seventh before Durazo attacked a 3-2 pitch leading off the eighth. It was his second career three-homer game.
Miguel Tejada was the last Oakland player to do it, in June 2001 at Texas. No opponent had hit three in Baltimore since California's Lee Stanton in July 1973.
Ryan has allowed home runs to only two left-handed batters this season.
"That's just a good at-bat," he said. "He fought off some tough pitches. I tried to go down and away and he just went down and got it."
"I know he is really tough," said Durazo, who supplied all of Oakland's runs, "so I went out there and just tried to make contact."
After waiting out a 57-minute rain delay, the 12th this season, the Orioles (57-62) tried to hand Cy Young Award favorite Mark Mulder his second loss in five nights. But they didn't score after the third inning, Durazo got busy, and Mulder became the majors' first 16-game winner.
Unbeatable for long stretches this season, Mulder has given up 11 runs in his past two starts, and the Orioles banged him around early. They had five hits through the third inning, but Mulder surrendered only one more, a single by B.J. Surhoff leading off the seventh.
Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth to earn his 12th save with Oakland and 26th this season.
"We just fell short," Mazzilli said. "We battled and you feel like you're in pretty good shape. It just didn't work out."
Ponson failed to pick up his sixth win since the break because of Durazo's ninth career multi-homer game. Ryan replaced him after the sixth inning with the score tied.
"If you make all the pitches to Durazo and keep him in the ballpark, it would have been a whole different ballgame," Ponson said. "But we couldn't do it. I couldn't do it."
No longer able to brag about their improved health, the Orioles were challenged earlier in the day to come up with a suitable lineup.
They put Jerry Hairston and Larry Bigbie on the disabled list, costing them two-thirds of their outfield, and brought McDonald and Val Majewski to the majors.
As if he weren't already scrambling, Mazzilli had to scratch catcher Javy Lopez because of back stiffness. "We waited until the last minute to see how he was," Mazzilli said. "He wasn't usable tonight."
With Majewski batting from the left side, McDonald is the only right-handed-hitting outfielder on the roster. If there's a sense of urgency to bring in someone from outside the organization, it's not apparent.
"We're going to see what we can do as far as trying to fill in and see what we have with the players that we've got, try to get everybody healthy," said Jim Beattie, executive vice president of baseball operations.
"If the guy can swing the bat and he can play defense, it doesn't matter if he's left-handed or right-handed right now."
Seeking a right-handed option at first base, the Orioles held lengthy discussions with Eric Karros after the Athletics released him three weeks ago. But a team official confirmed that no offer was made.
The Orioles figured to need the extra help against Mulder, who has two losses since April 28.
They took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, with Tejada doing most of the heavy lifting.
He led off with a double into left-center field, gambling that he'd beat the throw to second, and raced home on a one-out single by Surhoff. Tejada touched the plate with his left hand while diving around catcher Damian Miller, and received an enthusiastic greeting upon returning to the dugout.
McDonald reached on an infield hit, with shortstop Bobby Crosby failing to pick up the slow roller, and Surhoff scored on a chopper by Jay Gibbons.
Tejada increased the lead to 3-0 in the third with a sharp grounder that deflected off third baseman Eric Chavez's glove and trickled into left field, allowing Brian Roberts to score.
The Orioles were going so well, they produced another run on a double play that ended the inning.
Scott Hatteberg fielded Rafael Palmeiro's grounder along the line, stepped on first for the out and threw to second. Crosby tagged Tejada, but not before Melvin Mora crossed the plate.