BALTIMORE -- Long before the clock struck midnight and the Orioles finally fell to the Royals, 8-6, in 10 innings Friday, the O's could have bowed out quietly. They did not.
After 4 1/2 innings, Baltimore trailed, 5-1. James Shields was about to traverse the Orioles' lineup for a third time. With the top of the order coming up, the fifth inning potentially offered the Orioles a final chance to mount a comeback before Kansas City turned to its vaunted bullpen.
At the front of the three-run rally that cut the Royals' lead to 5-4 was Nick Markakis, the leadoff hitter playing in his first postseason. He laced a single to left. Alejandro De Aza followed that with a single to right. The Royals' bullpen finally started to stir, although Kansas City manager Ned Yost would stick with his starting pitcher.
"We're going to go down fighting," Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce said. "We're going to fight when we're behind. If the pitchers keep us in the game, we're going to do everything we can to get it back."
Shields got the first out when Adam Jones grounded into a fielder's choice. Still, Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate with a chance to salvage the rally. Cruz launched a double off the left-field wall, scoring Markakis. Cruz's career postseason slugging percentage now stands at .713 -- a number that trails only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.
After a Pearce walk, Yost trekked to the mound to meet with his starter but chose to let him dance out of his own jam. The second out came a batter later, on a strikeout to J.J. Hardy. As left-hander Brandon Finnegan threw in the bullpen, left-handed batter Ryan Flaherty stepped to the plate.
Yost stuck with Shields, and Flaherty smacked a two-run single into right.
"It's like a boxing match," Flaherty said. "We got knocked down early, clawed our way back in there."
Nick Hundley, the next batter, drilled a line drive directly at second baseman Omar Infante. Shields escaped, but the damage was done. A 5-1 lead shrunk to 5-4 and the Orioles tacked on another run an inning later to force extra innings.
"That was a back-and-forth game," Hundley said. "It's going to be a battle on both sides. These are two very, very talented teams, and they came out on top tonight."
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.