SEATTLE -- The Baltimore Orioles were gathering momentu yesterday, or so it seemed. Their second straight victory was just a phone call away, but relief stopper Gregg Olson turned out to be the wrong number.
Olson, who has waited patiently for the chance to help the club out of a lengthy slump, instead showed what inactivity can do to a relief pitcher. He gave up two runs in the eighth inning, as the Seattle Mariners came from behind to score a 5-4 victory at the Kingdome.
"He wasn't sharp at all," manager Frank Robinson said. "He hasn't had a heck of a lot of work the last 10 days. This was only his third time out on the road trip."
The Orioles had a chance to come away with four victories from a difficult nine-game trip. They took a three-run lead into the seventh inning, with pitching ace Ben McDonald working on a two-hitter, but the Mariners scored two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth to drop the Orioles back into the American League East cellar.
McDonald handed out a two-out walk in the seventh and gave up a two-run homer to Alvin Davis. Olson came on in the eighth and allowed four of the six batters he faced to reach base. Edgar Martinez singled through the infield to tie the game. Pete O'Brien lined the famous Olson curveball into right field to put Seattle ahead.
"It was just one of those [days]," said Olson, who had converted his first four save opportunities. "It was one of those days when I couldn't find my rhythm. I maybe threw two curveballs for strikes."
Olson has pitched just 10 innings in the first five weeks of the season. The club had hoped to reduce his workload to preserve his arm, but this is not what anyone had in mind.
"You never really know what's enough work and what isn't," Olson said. "It's just a matter of judgment. Today, with the rest, I didn't have good stuff and didn't have any rhythm. When you go up against a good-hitting team, it's got a chance to pull something out."
Robinson had intended to use Olson for one inning at a time this year, but he brought him in to open the eighth inning because the day off today eliminated any possibility of overwork.
"It was a one-run ballgame and he had only pitched two times on this trip," Robinson said. "This was a save situation. Two innings with a day off tomorrow wouldn't have bothered him."
Olson didn't finish one inning. Paul Kilgus came on to get the final out of the eighth. Meanwhile, Seattle right-hander Mike Jackson put together three perfect innings of relief to earn his third victory of the year.
The Orioles had come back from a lopsided victory Saturday night to score four runs off Mariners starter Randy Johnson in the first five innings, but the balanced attack that produced 11 runs the night before was not in evidence yesterday.
Cal Ripken drove in three runs with a two-run double and his eighth home run of the year, but it was Johnson's control trouble that drove him to an early and angry exit.
It was "Randy Johnson Growth Chart Day" at the Kingdome, with youngsters receiving a life-size, 7-foot poster of the 6-foot-10 left-hander. But it would have been more appropriate if it had been "Randy Johnson Eye Chart Day," since he walked six and hit a batter in a six-hit performance that was uglier than it looks in the box score.
Johnson was booed by the Kingdome crowd of 16,484, and he responded by sarcastically doffing his cap as he left the mound.
Everything pointed to an Orioles victory at that point, but they missed a couple of opportunities to build a big lead. Randy Milligan took a called third strike with the bases loaded and one out in the first, and Craig Worthington grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and none out in the fifth.
"Every loss is tough," Robinson said, "but some are tougher than others. This was certainly a tough loss for us. It was a very difficult loss, the kind that stays with you for a while.
"You win one and you're leading another one and it gets away from you. Yesterday and this one would have been nice to go home on. Now, you haven't built any momentum. You have to start from square one again."
McDonald was encouraged by his performance, if not the results. He had been rocked in three of his first four starts, but he showed excellent velocity in the early innings yesterday.
He appeared to be cruising when the game started to come apart in the seventh. He had retired 13 consecutive batters when O'Brien drew the two-out walk that led to Davis' third home run of the season.
"I just lost it a little bit at the end," he said. "I was getting up there in the pitch count -- [he threw 112 pitches] -- which is about the maximum for me right now. But I didn't feel tired. I felt like I was still throwing the ball hard.
"He [Davis] did a good job. It was a fastball a little up and away, but he was looking out there."