They came 10 innings apart, two hits into left field, two base runners rounding third base, two throws, two plays at the plate. Had the first play gone the opposite way, the second one likely never would have taken place. Had the second one gone the opposite way, the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers might still be playing.
On the two bang-bang plays at the plate, Brady Anderson was out and Damion Easley was safe, and that was the difference in the Tigers' 5-2 victory over the Orioles in 11 innings today in front of 44,474 water-logged fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Tigers won the game in the top of the 11th when Tony Clark's single to left off reliever Scott Kamieniecki (1-4) scored Easley from second, breaking a 2-2 tie. Catcher Charles Johnson grabbed left fielder B.J. Surhoff's one-hop throw, but could not hang on as he went to tag Easley.
"Wet ball, wet field," said Orioles Manager Ray Miller. "It was a great throw, but the ball kind of skipped on [Johnson]."
The inning disintegrated from there, as center fielder Anderson and shortstop Mike Bordick committed errors, and Deivi Cruz laid down a suicide-squeeze bunt to account for the final run.
Still, the play that will haunt the Orioles occurred some three hours and 10 innings earlier when Anderson, who had led off the first with a single, was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Bordick's double to left with nobody out.
As Juan Encarnacion had trouble coming up with the ball in the corner, Anderson held up briefly at third base when he saw no sign from third-base coach Sam Perlozzo, then hit the accelerator when Perlozzo began waving him in. Third baseman Dean Palmer took the throw from Encarnacion and his relay beat Anderson to home, where he was tagged out by catcher Brad Ausmus.
"It was no-man's land for both of us," Perlozzo said. "I had my eyes locked on the ball. When I sent, he stopped. Then he went, and I held him up. But it was too late."
In between the bookend plays at the plate, the game was full of painful just-misses, curious decisions and questionable fundamentals, which, when added up, cost the Orioles a game they should have won. The Tigers, whose $37 million payroll is less than half the Orioles', escaped with a split in this four-game series.
Miller pulled starting pitcher Ricky Bones after just 54 pitches, 3 2/3 innings and 2 runs. While four relievers held the Tigers scoreless until the 11th, Miller was unable to exploit favorable matchups in the late innings because his bullpen was all but used up.
Clearly upset at the early hook, Bones stood with his arms folded as Miller approached to take the ball. "I was surprised" to come out, Bones said. "But I respect his decision. He is the boss."
Delino DeShields hit a towering two-run homer onto Eutaw Street in the bottom of the seventh -- his first homer since May 22 -- to tie the score at 2, but his ninth-inning blast to straightaway center was one of three by the Orioles that were flagged down near the wall in the late innings.
"I'd feel a lot better about [the homer] if the second one had gone out," he said. "I thought it had a shot."
One inning later, the Orioles appeared poised to take the lead when Albert Belle led off the eighth with a double to left, his second double of the game. Representing the potential winning run with nobody out, Belle was expected to play conservatively.
But Belle strayed too far from the bag on Will Clark's deep drive to right, so that when right fielder Gabe Kapler ran down the ball just shy of the warning track, Belle had to scurry back to second base and touch up before taking off for third. The delay proved costly, as Kapler's strong throw beat Belle to the bag, and third baseman Dean Palmer applied the tag.
Both Anderson's out at the plate and Belle's out at third "were judgment calls," Miller said. "Albert was a half-step late tagging up, and the guy threw him out. We also had nine other innings with a lot of guys on base. So I'm not blaming him."