You heard me. The highlight of this evening was not anything the Orioles did-- they were, in fact, quite lifeless-- but rather the glorious antics of home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, who flat-out leveled a drunken, shirtless fan who'd stormed the field in the seventh.
The fan charged the field, rounded third, and slid headfirst into home plate during the seventh-inning stretch. As the doofus stood up to ponder his next heroic exhibition while Camden Yards security officers lagged behind, a fed-up Kellogg took matters into his own hands and just flattened the blithering dolt to the ground with a Ray Lewis-type tackle. (This information comes from the Orioles' beat writers, combined with a bit of flowery exposition on my part.) Kellogg was greeted with a tremendous cheer from the small Camden Yards crowd, which was no doubt richly deserved. That's just plain awesome. Jeff Kellogg, you'll always have a special place in my heart. At least until you make a terrible call that costs the Orioles a game.
The blistering takedown was, unfortunately, one of the very few things O's fans had to cheer about tonight. This game was a total turkey, led by an uninspired effort from starter Jake Arrieta. Unlike his last outing, when Arrieta looked outstanding for four innings and then completely melted down, Jake was just sort of consistently mediocre throughout tonight.
The O's handed Arrieta a quick lead in the first, when Nolan Reimold led off with a double, moved to third on a medium fly to left, and scored on a medium fly to left, thanks to two terrible throws from Coco Crisp (who, to quote Gary Thorne, "has no arm"). But Arrieta gave the run back and more in the second. A four-pitch walk to the bespectacled and unpronounceable Kila Ka'aihue preceded a double by Kurt Suzuki to the left-field wall. The O's had a great chance to throw out Ka'aihue at the plate, but this time it was Reimold's turn to make a terrible throw from left field, a dribbler to the cutoff man that allowed the runner to score. The next batter, Eric Sogard, clubbed a two-run homer on to the flag court to give the A's a 3-1 lead.
Arrieta was off his game all night. His command was nonexistent, and he worked into so many deep counts that he'd thrown 70 pitches by the end of the third inning. He recovered a bit with a perfect fourth and fifth, but the longball struck him again in the sixth on a solo blast by Josh Reddick that made it a 4-1 game. Arrieta didn't make it out of the sixth; he threw 105 pitches in 5 ⅔ innings, giving up four runs.
The way Brandon McCarthy was pitching, a three-run deficit was too much to overcome. The A's ace cruised through a quality seven-inning performance, allowing just two runs. The second was plated in the sixth on an Adam Jones RBI single. But the Birds ruined their chances for bigger innings, going just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. In the fifth, with Chris Davis at second and one out, Ryan Flaherty smacked a single to center field. Davis was well around third base before noticing that coach DeMarlo Hale had his hands up giving him the stop sign. As Davis retreated back to third, the throw from center field was way off the mark. Davis would've scored easily if he'd kept running. Instead, the next batter, Robert Andino, grounded into an inning-ending double play, and a potential run went up in smoke.
A Reddick RBI single in the eighth added a run for Oakland. In the bottom of the eighth, A's reliever Ryan Cook became the 59th pitcher of the modern era to notch FOUR strikeouts in one inning. He fanned J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Jones-- with Adam reaching first on a strike three wild pitch-- and then Matt Wieters. Wow. Total domination. I don't want to see Ryan Cook again.
With the O's trailing by three in the ninth, Buck Showalter figured it was finally safe to let Kevin Gregg make a rare appearance, his first in nine days. Surprisingly, Gregg was actually very sharp. He retired all three batters he faced, including two strikeouts. But the Orioles went down quietly against Athletics closer Grant Balfour in the ninth, sealing the 5-2 defeat. That snapped the Birds' four-game winning streak. At least we'll always have Jeff Kellogg.