Athletics 10, Orioles 5
-- This September will unfold just like its predecessors the past seven years for the Baltimore Orioles: a month that will not end quickly enough for an overmatched team playing out the string in relative oblivion.
Monday's 10-5 home loss in 12 innings to the Oakland Athletics provided a glimpse into the final stretch. Twice, the Orioles erased two-run deficits, only to see baseball's model of over-achievement deny them. By the time Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer in the top of the 12th inning to start Oakland's five-run rally, more than half of the announced 18,287 had Oriole Park at Camden Yards in their rear-view mirrors.
The four-game sweep left the Orioles as losers of nine of 10, but that only scratches the surface of their misery. Since winning their first two games following the all-star break, the Orioles have lost 29 of 41, matching the Kansas City Royals -- who had a record-flirting 19-game losing streak -- for the American League's worst mark over the past 41 games.
"It's pretty bad right now," said outfielder Luis Matos. "It's real frustrating to be losing all these games."
The end, however, appears to be coming a little sooner for Rafael Palmeiro.
Interim manager Sam Perlozzo said Palmeiro is no longer the team's everyday first baseman.
Since returning Aug. 11 from his 10-game suspension for testing positive for a steroid, Palmeiro has gone 2 for 20, and has not played in two of the past three games. Asked if he could see Palmeiro playing everyday again this season, Perlozzo said: "I don't, but if he'd swing the bat, he would be. It's not different than anyone else."
Palmeiro said he was fine with the decision, adding, "I'll still have my chances."
Alejandro Friere, who made his major league debut Aug. 9 after 13 minor league seasons, got the start at first base Monday. He went 2 for 3 with a walk and was lifted for a pinch runner after doubling in the eighth inning.
After retiring the A's in order in the 11th, Orioles reliever Jorge Julio began the 12th facing first baseman Dan Johnson, whose three-run homer in the sixth inning erased the Orioles' only lead of the four-game series.
Johnson lined a 2-1 pitch into left-center field that Eric Byrnes had well within his sights. After chasing for about 50 feet, Byrnes, who entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, stuck out his glove and squeezed the ball. It bounced out.
"It wasn't for a lack of effort," he said. "There was a little guy in there who said we didn't want it to stay in."
Johnson reached third base, but he didn't have to go that far. Swisher, the No. 8 batter, followed by smashing a 2-2 fastball well over the right field scoreboard for a two-run homer.
Marco Scutaro and Jason Kendall then followed with singles and both scored when Mark Ellis hit a three-run homer, which ended Julio's evening.
In the past two games, Julio has allowed eight runs on five hits and has retired six batters. Over his past 30 games, Julio, once the Orioles' most promising bullpen prospect, has allowed runs 12 times and has a 9.10 ERA.
He said his ineffectiveness this season stems from not having a defined role. After having his closer duties taken from him prior to this season, Julio has entered games at various stages. He said it is impossible to be prepared.
"Right now, I don't know my role," Julio said. "I don't know anything. Last year, I knew my role. I was ready to go. My role was closing."
The Orioles had a chance to end the game before extra innings. With the game tied at 5, Friere led off the eighth with a double and Matos entered as a pinch runner. David Newhan reached on a sacrifice bunt that moved Matos to third. Catcher Sal Fasano then hit a weak grounder up the middle that Scutaro fielded cleanly, stepped on second and fired to first for the double play.
Matos stayed at third. Brian Roberts followed with a groundout to second to end the inning.
Third base coach Rick "Dempsey told me to let it go through," Matos said, "so that's what I did. In that situation, you need to do what your third base coach wants you to do.
"I know all the fans were booing me, but I just did what I was told to do."
Perlozzo was not happy, either.
"I coached 14 years over at third," he said. "That's an automatic to me. . . . I guess I didn't relay that well enough."