BALTIMORE -- Tyler Clippard winced as his four-seam fastball leaked over the middle of home plate, destined to meet the barrel of Seth Smith's bat. It was one mistake too many in a costly seventh inning, snapping the Yankees' relief string at 15 scoreless innings to open the year.
Chase Headley's throwing error opened a door that the Orioles marched through, with Smith's two-run homer providing their first lead of the evening as the Yankees were handed a 6-5 defeat at frigid Camden Yards on Friday.
"We had that game. We had a four-run lead," Clippard said. "Anytime you have a four-run lead and you lose, it's never good."
The Yankees' lead had been trimmed to a run heading to the home half of the seventh, with Luis Severino having pitched well enough to qualify for a victory despite surrendering a long three-run homer to Manny Machado.
Jonathan Schoop opened the frame with a bouncer to Headley at third base, who short-hopped a throw to first that Greg Bird could not handle.
"It's a play I want to make. I want to make it for him," Bird said. "It's a tough one, but I feel like I can make it. I've just got to keep working on that."
It was the second error of the game for Headley, who also plunked Adam Jones in the back while attempting to complete a double play in the first inning. Severino escaped that inning without Jones scoring.
"The first one, I'm just trying to get rid of the ball and get it over there," Headley said. "It hit him in the back unfortunately and bounced away. The second one obviously was a poor throw. It really kind of gave them the momentum and really cost us."
The evening was a reality check for Headley, who entered the day as the Majors' top hitter (.636). Headley snared three hot liners off the bats of Mark Trumbo, Wellington Castillo and Joey Rickard, but that glovework was forgotten when his throw scooted past Bird's scoop attempt.
"The one where we hit the guy in the back, that's unfortunate," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's going to happen. But those are things that you've got to clean up."
A sacrifice advanced the tying run to third base in the seventh, and the Yanks' impressive bullpen string was in jeopardy following 13 2/3 scoreless frames against Tampa Bay hitters, plus four outs logged by Jonathan Holder, Tommy Layne and Clippard on Friday.
Clippard's 2-1 pitch to Smith sailed, but not enough to avoid a trip over the scoreboard in right field, where two innings later an 'F' denoting the Yankees' third loss in four games would be posted.
"I was trying to set them up for a strikeout, and I don't get a lot of ground balls," Clippard said. "That was where my mind was at through that at-bat. It wasn't a strike, it was above the zone, but he just got the barrel to it."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.