Having pitched Wednesday in New York for his 999th career appearance, the 41-year-old knew that the next time he got into a game, he would become just the 13th pitcher in Major League history to pass the 1,000-game milestone.
That opportunity came in the sixth inning when Red Sox manager Terry Francona put the call out to the bullpen for Timlin to relieve Javier Lopez after Baltimore's Aubrey Huff singled to open the inning.
Timlin, who is usually held back for the game's final three innings, had been warming up in between innings after Boston nearly tied the game in the fifth. Francona wanted the lefty Lopez to face Huff before calling on his third pitcher of the night. As Timlin ran in from the Boston bullpen, the message board flashed the news of his lifetime achievement to the 36,810 on hand at Fenway.
"We got to him, obviously, earlier than we wanted to," Francona said. "Javy did a great job. When we made it 4-3, after we got a chance to make it 4-4 -- we had a double play -- we had Timlin up to try to keep it right there. And it didn't work."
To say things went roughly on this grand occasion would be a vast understatement.
Melvin Mora and Ramon Hernandez greeted Timlin with clean singles to load the bases with none out before Jay Payton's sacrifice fly to right made it 5-3 Baltimore. A walk to Brian Roberts reloaded the bases and Corey Patterson lined out to Eric Hinske in left for another sacrifice fly and a 6-3 deficit.
Then Baltimore applied what appeared to be a knockout punch as Nick Markakis drove his 16th homer of the year to the grandstands in right. The three-run shot put Baltimore ahead 9-3. Miguel Tejada added a double off the glove of Coco Crisp, who slammed into the center-field wall, nearly making a sensational catch. Timlin was then pulled for Kyle Snyder and Timlin's night was done.
"He left a changeup up to Markakis," Francona said. "Again, one thing we talk about so often, when you go to the bullpen early and somebody has a tough time, it really makes a difference."
Adding painful irony to the situation was the fact that Timlin entered Friday's game with a streak of 11 1/3 scoreless innings.
But as agonizing as Friday might have been, Timlin still stands as one of the most durable relievers in history. And the milestones will continue to fall as Goose Gossage is squarely in Timlin's sights, with 1,002 career appearances.
Only three active pitchers have appeared in more games -- Mike Stanton (1,169), Jose Mesa (1,013) and Roberto Hernandez (1,003).
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.