The Orioles gave one of their most reliable starters a five-run lead, only to watch it get erased in a couple innings. They loaded the bases in four separate innings and had only one run to show for it. They saw the potential winning run get thrown out at the plate in the 10th inning.
But it was Texas center fielder Gary Matthews who finally struck the Orioles with the knockout punch last night at Camden Yards.
Sammy Sosa hit his 587th career home run, moving him past Frank Robinson for sole possession of fifth place on baseball's all-time list, Javy Lopez tied the game with a dramatic two-run homer in the ninth inning, but the Orioles lost, 11-8, to the Texas Rangers when Matthews hit a three-run shot in the 11th inning.
The former Oriole hammered Jorge Julio's fastball onto the flag court in right field, his second home run of the game. In a game that featured 52 base runners, 33 hits - 20 by the Rangers - and lasted more than four hours, it was Matthews who had the biggest hit of them all.
The Orioles (51-49) lost for the ninth time in 11 games, falling 4 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and into a third-place tie with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sosa was thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning. Trying to score from second on Luis Matos' single, Sosa was easily beaten by Matthews' throw, sliding into Texas catcher Rod Barajas with his cleats up.
Sosa appeared to apologize, but the two had words and the benches cleared, but the situation didn't escalate.
The Rangers scored two in the ninth on Mark DeRosa's RBI double off closer B.J. Ryan to take an 8-6 lead, then brought in Francisco Cordero to save the game. But Matthews dropped Sosa's fly ball in short center field, Lopez slammed a two-run homer, his second dramatic home run in as many nights, to tie the game at 8.
B.J. Surhoff followed with a single and Luis Matos not only got Surhoff to second with a bunt, but also reached first without a throw. But with bases loaded and one out, Cordero struck out Melvin Mora on three pitches and got Tejada, who left the bases loaded three times last night, to fly to right to end the inning.
The 31,450 in attendance, who waited out a 1-hour, 37-minute rain delay, saw a brilliant first inning by Tejada, who saved two runs with a diving play at short and then slammed a three-run home run in the bottom half of the inning; and a historic bases-empty shot by the suddenly hot Sosa that followed Tejada's home run.
But they also watched Bruce Chen surrender five fourth-inning runs on three home runs, and closer Ryan have another shaky outing in the ninth. It all was rendered meaningless as the game dragged on past midnight.
Rangers pitchers walked 10 and the Orioles finally made them pay in the eighth inning. Mora singled off Kameron Loe to tie the game at 6, bringing Tejada to the plate with the bases loaded and one out.
Tejada hit a fly ball to right field that Richard Hidalgo dropped - and seemingly not on purpose - in foul territory. The ball likely would have been deep enough to get Larry Bigbie home from third with the go-ahead run, but that mattered little when Loe struck out on Tejada two pitches later. He then got Rafael Palmeiro to ground out, sending the game into the ninth inning deadlocked at 6.
After saving two runs with a diving catch that triggered a double play in the first inning, Tejada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the inning with two runners on after Brian Roberts led off with a walk and Mora reached on a bunt single.
Tejada unloaded on Chris Young's fastball, driving his 22nd homer 375 feet into the left-field bleachers. The crowd saluted Tejada and had barely sat down when Sosa drove a Young pitch toward right field, did his trademark hop and watched the ball sail over the scoreboard and onto the flag court.
The milestone home run was his 13th of the season, his second in as many nights and his fourth in nine games. On Tuesday, Sosa said he loves the hot weather and has figured out what was ailing him during a trying first half of the season. He promised that people will "see the difference."
The Orioles added to their lead in the second. Matos singled and stole second base. Roberts drove him home, shooting a single down the third base line to give Chen a 5-0 lead.
In his previous start, Chen took a hard grounderoff his left shin on a ball hit by Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, the same player whose liner hit Boston starter Matt Clement in the head Tuesday night
Crawford was only the second batter Chen faced on Friday, and the pitcher refused to use the sore shin as an excuse for his subpar performance against the Devil Rays, who touched him for eight hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.
X-rays were taken on Chen's shin the next day, but they were negative.
He had it wrapped before last night's game and was in trouble from the outset but was ultimately saved from damage in the first because of a sparkling play by Tejada.
With men on second and third, Hank Blalock ripped a liner back over the middle. The ball buzzed over Chen's glove before Tejada dived to his left and snared it . From his chest, he flipped to Roberts at second to get the inning-ending double play.
Chen worked his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third, retiring the Rangers on hard-hit balls to third and left field.