BALTIMORE -- Down to their final two outs in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, the Orioles rallied to hand Yankees closer Mariano Rivera his third blown save of the season -- two of which have come at Baltimore -- to force extra innings.
But bonus baseball wouldn't be nearly as kind. The Orioles left the bases loaded twice, exhausted their entire relief corps -- forcing them to use Thursday's originally scheduled starter, Jeremy Guthrie -- and saw an already-ugly inning turn scary when Michael Gonzalez was ejected after hitting the Yankees' Chris Dickerson on the helmet with a pitch.
The result -- a 4-1, 15-inning loss to New York -- only counts as one defeat. Although the morose mood that permeated through the home clubhouse afterward said it all -- this one was gut-wrenching.
"This is real tough, real tough to swallow, especially on the offensive side," said outfielder Luke Scott, who went 1-for-7 as part of a lineup that stranded 15 baserunners.
"We had that many opportunities, and we just didn't get the job done."
"I think I speak for everyone when I say we are really frustrated after this loss," added rookie Zach Britton, who saw his efforts -- he allowed one unearned run in seven innings -- squandered in the marathon game, the Orioles' longest home contest since a 17-inning game on June 27, 2003.
Wednesday's loss dropped the Orioles to 19-22 on the year and was their fifth defeat to the Yankees this year, three of which have been decided in extra innings. Playing with a two-man bench because both Derrek Lee (left oblique strain) and Brian Roberts (headaches) were unavailable, manager Buck Showalter downplayed the effect of having just backup catcher Jake Fox and Brandon Snyder -- who was activated prior to the game -- to call on in the late innings.
"There were a few things we might could have done, but I think that's an excuse," said Showalter, who watched his offense struggle over the final four innings against Yankees reliever Hector Noesi, who was making his Major League debut.
"We had plenty of opportunities to win tonight and weren't able to do it," Showalter added. "You get in that situation some during the year, because you've had to use people a lot and what have you, but ... I'm impressed with most of our relievers."
Gonzalez certainly didn't fit in that group. The much-maligned lefty was the final reliever Showalter called on, entering in lieu of Jeremy Accardo. The right-handed Accardo wiggled out of trouble to toss a scoreless two innings before a pair of singles led to his team's demise in the 15th.
It took just one pitch for the relief corps' work -- which also included scoreless appearances from Clay Rapada, Jason Berken, Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara and Kevin Gregg -- to be washed away, as Robinson Cano belted a go-ahead two-run double off Gonzalez. Two pitches later, Gonzalez hit Dickerson and was ejected immediately by home-plate umpire Dan Bellino.
"In no way, shape or form was I trying to hit Dickerson or anything like that," said Gonzalez, who stood on the mound in a state of shock as Dickerson crumpled to the ground. "I was trying to throw a fastball down and away. It got away from me, and I'm sorry it hit him."
Gonzalez's ejection forced Showalter to use Guthrie -- a situation that could alter the O's starting rotation and will almost certainly force the club to make a roster move to add a fresh arm or two to the bullpen. Gonzalez was charged with one run in the four-pitch outing, raising his ERA to 8.53 and further clouding his status on the team.
"The guys -- 15 innings -- to go out there and grind the way they did, I mean, it pretty much breaks my heart that I went out there and that's how we finished up," Gonzalez said.
"No one is harder on themselves than me. I understand and I know how it looked."
While Accardo was tagged with the loss, Gonzalez's 15th-inning performance took the wind out of the Orioles' sails, erasing all the goodwill generated from Vladimir Guerrero's game-tying sacrifice fly off Rivera and Britton's sparkling start.
Making his regular-season debut against New York, Britton continued to show why he's an early candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The lefty held the Yankees to one unearned run -- the result of an errant pickoff throw that helped Alex Rodriguez advance to third -- on six hits and three walks. Britton also struck out four in the 102-pitch effort, swapping zeroes with Yankees starter Bartolo Colon, who posted eight scoreless frames before being lifted for Rivera.
"Britton pitched amazing," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira raved of the 23-year-old lefty, who lowered his ERA to 2.14 in the no-decision.
"We couldn't scratch any out in extra innings against their relievers, but finally, we got to them in the 15th. That's a fun win. That's a terrible loss."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.