SEATTLE -- The Baltimore Orioles have spent the past four weeks searching for some elusive element and hoping against hope that it would be found before the season was lost.
It is too early to tell whether that search is over, but they found something last night -- something that propelled them to an 11-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners at the Kingdome.
What was it?
Excitement? Positive energy? Intensity? The law of averages? Call it whatever you want.
The team that good fortune forgot suddenly came to life against three Seattle pitchers and ended a three-game losing streak to climb out of the American League East cellar.
The Orioles came from behind three times and batted around in the fifth inning to score six runs in the club's most balanced offensive performance of the year. The 11 runs tied a season high. The 15 hits were a season high. It was just what the manager ordered, but only time will tell whether it was a turning point or just an isolated event.
Right-hander Jose Mesa just might have turned in his worst performance of 1991, but he lasted 7 1/3 innings to earn his third straight victory and improve his record to 4-3. For once, it was the offense that bailed him out instead of the other way around.
He struggled through the early innings and gave up five runs on LTC eight hits, settling down only after the club had staked him to a comfortable lead.
Center fielder Mike Devereaux had three hits, including a home run and an RBI double, and made a big defensive play while the game was still in doubt. Designated hitter Tim Hulett delivered a decisive, two-run double. Five Orioles had run-scoring hits.
The Orioles were looking for a wake-up call, and they got it in the third inning, though it wasn't exactly what they had in mind. They came from behind in the top of the inning on a two-run double by Brady Anderson, but Mesa gave up two wall shots in the third and was lucky to get out of it with two runs across.
Harold Reynolds drove a ball off the scoreboard on the right-field fence, but center fielder Devereaux played the carom perfectly and made a strong throw to cut down Greg Briley attempting to score from first base.
Henry Cotto followed with a shot to center that sent Devereaux and Anderson crashing into the fence. By the time they picked themselves off the warning track, Cotto was rounding third and heading for home with the first inside-the-park home run of his career.
Funny how things work out. Cotto didn't even start the game. He came in after Ken Griffey Jr. was forced out of action with an upset stomach. Mariners starter Erik Hanson also left early because of injury, the third opposing starter to do so in the Orioles' past three games.
And yet it looked as if it were going to be another night of frustration for the Orioles until Cotto's home run seemed to alter the chemistry of the game.
The excitement level changed dramatically. The Orioles came back to tie the score on Dwight Evans' second home run of the year in the fourth and then erased another Mariners lead with a six-run bat-around against two Seattle relievers in the fifth.
Devereaux led off the big inning with his fifth home run of the year, a towering fly ball off left-hander Bill Krueger that cleared the center-field fence at the 405 sign. Anderson followed with a walk and Cal Ripken singled before pinch hitter Tim Hulett lined a two-run double to left that put Orioles -- and Mesa -- ahead to stay.
Mesa was coming off a pair of impressive performances, including a seven-inning start against the Mariners at Memorial Stadium in which he gave up a run on seven hits. He followed that with his first career shutout, a seven-hitter against the California Angels on Monday at Anaheim Stadium.
He has been the only consistent starter on a pitching staff in crisis, though you'd never know it from the 3-3 record he brought into the game. Mesa had given up two runs or fewer in five of his first six starts, but the Orioles scored two runs or fewer in three of them.
Hanson had been very hittable in his first start against the Orioles this year, allowing 11 baserunners in 5 1/3 innings of work on April 30, but the Orioles struggled with men on base and scored only three times in a 6-3 defeat.
He appeared to be more overpowering at the outset last night, but his performance deteriorated quickly and he left after four innings with tightness in his right elbow.
Hanson gave up three hits in the third and three in the fourth, but was fortunate again to be pitching against a team that has not been effective with men on base. The Orioles managed three runs off Hanson before going on the offensive against Krueger and Bill Swift in the fifth.