Things could get worse before they get better for the slumping Orioles.
Handcuffed last night by the fifth man in Seattle's vaunted starting rotation, the Orioles face the Mariners' top gun, Erik Hanson, when the three-game series resumes tonight (7:35, HTS) at Memorial Stadium.
Hanson came into his own last season, winning 18 games. The turning point came in June in Kansas City when he made "one small mechanical adjustment," according to pitching coach Mike Paul. "He was opening up his lead leg," Paul said. "It was a matter of four inches, but it helped him quite a bit. He made more quality pitches down in the zone after that."
Hanson, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound righthander, won 12 of his last 15 decisions in a dazzling finishing kick. His 18 wins were the second most in Seattle history behind Mark Langston's 19 in 1987. Hanson was third in the AL in strikeouts, fourth in wins and innings pitched, and sixth in batting average against (.232). He held opponents to a .215 average with runners on base.
"He proved to himself that he was a bona fide major-league pitcher last year," Paul said. "He has a chance to be one of the best in the major leagues. We always knew he had the tools."
Hanson also was 2-0 against the Orioles a year ago, allowing just seven hits in 15 innings. This season he is 1-1 with a 2.97 earned run average.
Hanson heads a rotation that includes Randy Johnson, who starts tomorrow, Brian Holman, Scott Bankhead and Rich DeLucia, who beat the Orioles last night. It is an impressive array of arms.
"These guys will get better," Paul warned. "There are staffs where the pitchers won't get better, but these guys will."
TOUCHING BASES for sports
* QUESTION: Though Rickey Henderson has stolen off 108 different catchers, almost a third of his steals (312) have come against just eight of them. Name the eight catchers.
* HELP! K.C.'s Bret Saberhagen, winless since Opening Day, has had only one run scored for him during his last three starts.
* ANSWER: The eight are Jim Sundberg, Ernie Whitt, Carlton Fisk, Rick Dempsey, Butch Wynegar, Rich Gedman, Lance Parrish and John Wathan.
* WHEN: Tonight, 7:35 (Channels 2, 20; WBAL-AM 1090, WTOP-AM 1500).
* WHERE: Memorial Stadium.
* SEASON SERIES: First meeting.
* STANDINGS: The Orioles (6-10) are tied for last in the East with the Yankees, four games behind Toronto. The Mariners (8-11) are last in the West, 4 1/2 games behind Chicago.
* PITCHERS: Orioles' Dave Johnson (1-2, 8.79) vs. Mariners' Rich DeLucia (1-2, 7.00).
* EXTRA BASES: Johnson had a rough time against the Mariners last year, going 0-2 with a 8.56 ERA . . . Seattle easily won the season series with the Orioles last season, 9-3 . . . The Mariners lost six straight to open the season, won eight straight and now have lost five in a row . . . OF Joe Orsulak led the Orioles with a .296 average against Seattle last year; as a team, the Orioles batted .195 against the Mariners . . . The Orioles are without first baseman Glenn Davis (neck injury), and Seattle closer Mike Schooler (sore elbow) has been sidelined since the start of the season.