O's rally falls short against Rangers
Ninth-inning run forces extras, but visitors fall in 10
ARLINGTON -- It was a night of rareties on Friday in Texas, where not only did the Rangers' impregnable closer Eric Gagne blow a save chance, but an umpire also admitted to blowing a critical call at home plate.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, neither unusual occurrence did much to avert a frustrating 4-3 loss in 10 innings before 24,035 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
All-Star shortstop Michael Young singled to left on the first pitch he saw from Orioles reliever Paul Shuey in the bottom of the 10th. The one-out hit scored Travis Metcalf from second base, and Young's second walk-off winning hit of the season doomed the Orioles to their 16th loss in 24 games.
The loss seemed doubly painful inside a somber Baltimore clubhouse. Not only did the Orioles feel they had been robbed of a tying run in the seventh, they also knew they had squandered an improbable uprising against one of baseball's top closers. Brian Roberts' one-out double in the top of the ninth had scored Brandon Fahey from first base, saddling Gagne with his first blown save in 12 opportunities as a Ranger.
"I don't take any solace at that at all," Dave Trembley said sternly.
The Orioles' interim manager still was upset over a seventh-inning call by plate umpire Brian Knight that might well have cost Baltimore the game.
With the bases loaded and one out, Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson bounced a wild pitch off the foot of catcher Adam Melhuse. The ball ricocheted off the backstop back to Melhuse as the Orioles' Chris Gomez dashed home from third base. Television replays confirmed that Gomez slid his foot across the plate ahead of Melhuse's diving tag attempt. But Knight's view was partially blocked as Wilson tried to cover the plate, and the umpire called out a dumbfounded Gomez.
"I was pretty surprised," Gomez said. "I got a good break, I saw the whole plate in front of me, I thought I was safe. But he saw what he saw."
Trembley ran out to argue the call at length, but Knight neither consulted with other umpires nor reversed his call, preserving the Rangers' 3-0 lead. The decision loomed even larger when Nick Markakis followed with a double deep into the right-field corner, bringing the Orioles within 3-2 instead of tying the game.
"We thought our guy was safe," Trembley said. "That's baseball, but I don't feel real good about it. I asked [umpires crew chief] Tim Welke after the game if they could look at the video of it and then let me know.
"I think we were all stunned by that call. I don't think I could say it any clearer than that without getting in trouble."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said, "The umpire made the right call from my vantage point." But after watching replays after the game, the umpires confessed an injustice had been done, though they stopped short of an apology.
"I've seen the replay, and I see that I missed the call," Knight said. "I was fighting to get the best position I could get and I called what I saw at the moment. That's pretty much all I can say about it. I just saw the tag beating him."
Welke defended his colleague, saying, "You normally don't have plays like that. You'll have wild pitches that lead to plays at the plate, but not with the catcher diving back at the guy. ... I thought [Knight] was in great position, and then the pitcher came in front of him. That's just a bad break."
That did little to soothe the Orioles (37-48), who lost for the third time in four games, and fell to 4-5 in extra innings and who slipped to 8-8 since Trembley replaced fired manager Sam Perlozzo on June 18.
"It's pretty frustrating," said Gomez. "It's just unfortunate. That was a big run."
The Orioles managed to tie the game at 3 in the ninth with a run on three hits against Gagne, who had converted his first 11 save chances this year and who entered the game with a 1.07 ERA and a .140 opponents' batting average.
Fahey, who replaced injured starting shortstop Freddie Bynum in the third, started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out single to right. He scored from first when Roberts drove a double to the wall in right-center.
Roberts was picked off at second when Gagne fielded a sharp comebacker from Jay Payton, but Markakis singled to right to put runners on the corners with two out. Gagne recovered to strike out Kevin Millar to end the inning and the Orioles' final threat.
After Jamie Walker worked a scoreless ninth, Shuey put up little resistance in the 10th. Metcalf, the Rangers' rookie third baseman who came in batting .182, singled to center for his second hit of the game. Former Orioles utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. bunted Metcalf to second. After Shuey fell behind to Ramon Vazquez, he issued a walk that set up a double play, but also brought up the Rangers' best clutch hitter. Young smashed Shuey's next pitch into left field with a hard one-hopper that glanced over Gomez's outstretched glove.
"I thought I had a chance at it, but it kind of shot up higher than I thought," Gomez said.
Left fielder Jay Gibbons tried to throw Metcalf out at the plate, but the throw was wide and late and this time Knight's "safe" call was correct. Metcalf scored the winning run for a Rangers team that has won 11 of its last 16 games.
Texas starter Kameron Loe frustrated the Orioles for the first six innings, taking a four-hit shutout into the seventh. Loe (5-6) has a 1.60 ERA over his last 33 2/3 innings, but Gagne cost him what would have been his fifth consecutive winning start.
The Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie (4-2) was spared the loss, but saw his winless streak extended to three consecutive starts. The rookie right-hander allowed only one run in his first 5 2/3 innings, but issued a two-out walk to Marlon Byrd in the sixth, followed by a two-run homer by Brad Wilkerson. Wilkerson, playing in place of injured first baseman Mark Teixeira, has nine home runs and 23 RBIs in his last 25 games.
The Orioles lost starting shortstop Bynum in the third, when he strained his left hamstring trying to beat out a grounder to first base. Bynum was replaced by Fahey, a Dallas native, and will be re-evaluated Saturday before his status for the rest of the series is revealed.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.