SEATTLE -- The Baltimore Orioles have undergone some sweeping changes the past couple of days, but that may not keep the Seattle Mariners from sweeping them out of the Kingdome.
The Orioles still suffered their fifth straight loss last night, a 8-2 decision that had Ken Griffey Jr.'s signature all over it.
Griffey hit a grand slam in the second inning and made a series of outstanding plays in the outfield to carry the Mariners to the brink of a three-game sweep and send the Orioles to their 11th loss in 14 games.
But the evening was not an entirely negative experience for the Orioles organization, which got its first major-league look at a couple of minor-league pitching prospects after starter Roy Smith gave up six runs in the second inning.
Left-hander Jim Poole and right-hander Stacy Jones arrived at the Kingdome just minutes before game time to fill a couple of the roster spots left when the Orioles moved veteran pitchers Jeff Robinson, Jeff Ballard and Paul Kilgus off the roster earlier in the day. But both debuted impressively in middle relief.
Poole gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, but retired the next 10 and struck out six in a strong 3 1/3 -inning performance. Jones, who was Gregg Olson's college roommate at Auburn, followed Poole to the mound and pitched two perfect innings -- striking out two -- before Olson came on to give up two runs in the eighth.
"The kids pitched well," said manager John Oates. "That was refreshing."
But Oates was not pleased with the way the rest of the club performed, and he said so in an angry post-game address.
DTC He wouldn't say what was said, but he indicated afterward that more roster moves could be imminent if the team continues to pile up losses the way it has the past two weeks.
"We might not be finished [with the roster] yet," he said. "If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn't, you don't have anything to worry about. If that puts pressure on them, that's just the way it is.
"I heard Frank [Robinson] say a thousand times, if you can't play with pressure, you can't play at this level. If guys think I'm putting pressure on them -- tough. The name of the game here is winning."
Oates said he did not fault the on-field effort of the team, but doesn't want the Orioles to get used to losing.
"We've got more material here than what we're doing," he said. "These games that are 8-2, 11-4, 9-1, 12-9, that doesn't get it."
The 5 1/3 innings of one-hit rookie relief were nice, but the game turned on a fantastic defensive play by Griffey in the first and a fat pitch by Smith in the second.
The Orioles came within inches of staking Smith to a big lead at the outset, only to watch helplessly while one of the best young players in either league put on a one-man show worthy of Willie Mays.
Seattle left-hander Bill Krueger gave up singles to Mike Devereaux and Cal Ripken before loading the bases with a one-out walk to Dwight Evans, but Griffey crashed the center-field fence to take an extra-base hit away from Randy Milligan.
Milligan didn't miss a grand slam by much, but he had to settle for a 405-foot sacrifice fly and the Orioles had to settle for one run out of a possible four.
Smith was not so fortunate. He survived a two-on, none-out jam in the first inning, but served up the grand slam to Griffey in the Mariners' six-run second.
The big early inning -- an Orioles tradition since 1991 -- did not even begin to develop until there were two out. Smith gave up a double to Scott Bradley and a game-tying single to Omar Vizquel before Greg Briley singled and Harold Reynolds walked to load the bases.
Griffey dropped behind on the count, but fought back to work Smith for a full-count fastball that wound up in the upper reaches of the right-field bleachers.
"I got behind, and I couldn't get the curveball over," Smith said, "so I had to come in and I got raked. I put myself in a hole a couple of times, and that was it."
For those who are keeping count, it was the 31st time in 99 games that the Orioles have fallen behind by three runs or more in three innings or less, a statistic of some relevance at this point in a very disappointing season.
Smith lasted one more batter, giving up a long triple to Pete O'Brien before giving way to Poole, who surrendered a run-scoring single to Alvin Davis before settling down to
work through the fifth. In one stretch from the third to the fifth, he struck out five of six batters.
Ripken cut the Mariners' lead to four with a leadoff homer in the third, his 22nd of the season and first since July 20, but Krueger dodged enough line drives to hold on until the seventh.
Krueger (9-3) has been a very pleasant surprise for the Mariners. He started the season in the bullpen, but entered the starting rotation on May 16 and has an 8-2 record as a starter.
He entered the game ranked fourth in the American League with a 2.76 ERA and sixth with a .727 winning percentage, but his lifetime record against the Orioles was 4-5 in 14 career appearances.
This was not one of his better games. He gave up seven hits through the first four innings and had runners on base in each of the first five. If not for another great catch by Griffey, he might not have been around so long.
Griffey ran down a leadoff fly ball by Juan Bell in the fourth inning and made an over-the-shoulder basket catch look surprisingly easy on the right-center-field warning track. Devereaux followed with a base hit, and Ripken hit a sharp line drive to short later in the inning, but the Orioles came up empty.