Baltimore Orioles manager Frank Robinson pushed a lot of buttons last night, though the one with PANIC printed on it remains untouched.
Robinson doesn't know the meaning of the word, or at least he claims he doesn't. But just for the record, it is what you are supposed to do after you get swept at home by the Seattle Mariners.
The Orioles moved to the brink of a three-game sweep last night, pTC dropping a 6-3 decision before 18,743 at Memorial Stadium. They close out a horrible homestand tonight and then embark on a long trip to the West Coast.
But first, the coaching staff has been called upstairs for a meeting with club president Larry Lucchino this afternoon. Staff meetings are not uncommon in the Orioles front office, but the timing of this one is curious.
"We've done it before," Robinson said. "I don't know what this one will be about, but when they have been called in the past, there has been no agenda. Larry just wants to see what everybody thinks."
Robinson already has made his feelings well known. Last night, he hoped that a revamped lineup might shake the Orioles out of a frustrating slump, but the club continued to struggle at the plate, on the mound and, because they are nothing if not consistent, in the field.
Utility man Juan Bell replaced Bill Ripken at second base. Leo Gomez apparently will be getting more playing time at third. Brady Anderson and Joe Orsulak were one-two in the order against Mariners right-hander Erik Hanson.
"I'm not sending a message to the players," Robinson said. "I'm just searching. Those players who don't understand, I hope they come to me so I can explain it to them.
"I look at the situation. I would like to let each guy try to work out of it, but we're in a club slump. In that situation, you're not in a position to be sympathetic."
The Orioles are not in a position to be anything but worried. The starting rotation has been under heavy fire throughout the first month of the season. The attack has been sporadic at best -- averaging only three runs. Hence, the lineup changes, which figure to continue until the club finds a winning combination.
"You're trying to catch lightning in a bottle, no doubt about it," Robinson added.
Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. caught a couple of bolts, which helped take the life out of the Orioles in the early innings. He made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch to rob Anderson of a run-scoring extra-base hit in the second inning and crashed the wall to steal a two-run double from Chris Hoiles in the third.
He hit the fence so hard after catching Hoiles' shot that he knocked one of the padded green panels out of it. He also jammed his knee, forcing him to leave the game.
The Orioles had men all over the bases for the second night in a row, but they left seven runners on in the first three innings.
Anderson's long fly out in the second brought home a run to give the Orioles the lead, but Dave Valle put the Mariners in front with his second homer of the series -- a two-run shot in the third that landed in the same general area as the bases-empty homer he hit off Dave Johnson on Monday night.
Baltimore starter Jeff Ballard has a history of being vulnerable to the home-run ball, but his game unraveled on a couple of walks and an error by Gomez in Seattle's three-run fifth.
"I kind of put myself in that jam," said Ballard, who gave up just four hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. "It's nice to know that I'm still throwing well, but if I keep it at 2-1, I think we win the game."
In defense of Gomez, he was all over the place in that inning, turning a pair of solid defensive plays in support of Ballard before the law of fielding averages caught up with him.
Alvin Davis led off the inning with a walk and Jay Buhner followed with a single to center, but Gomez scuttled a sacrifice bunt attempt with a fine play to get the force at third. Ballard walked Valle to load the bases, but Gomez cut down a run at the plate on a bouncer to third by Henry Cotto. It would have been a Gold Glove inning if Gomez could have picked up a sharp grounder off the bat of Omar Vizquel, but he booted it for an error.
Site: Memorial Stadium
Mariners starter: Randy Johnson (2-2, 4.94)
Orioles starter: Jose Mesa (1-3, 3.33)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)