SEATTLE -- Just when it looked like Orioles pitcher Roy Smith had his act together, it started raining line drives in the Kingdome.
After struggling through a scoreless first inning, Smith routinely retired the first two hitters he faced in the second -- but couldn't retire another hitter in last night's 8-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
"I got myself in a hole a couple of times and it's frustrating, because since the [All-Star] break I had a chance to put a little streak together," said Smith (5-3). "Now it's like I'm back to square one. I'm on a roller coaster and can't get off."
The most damaging blow to Smith came after Ken Griffey Jr. worked him to a 3-and-2 count with the bases loaded. The next pitch ended up in
the rightfield seats to break a 1-1 tie, and a triple by Pete O'Brien brought newcomer Jim Poole into the game.
"No comment," was all manager John Oates would say when asked about Smith's performance.
He said a lot more about Griffey, who could be baseball's rising star of stars.
"Last year I answered one of those surveys about the most exciting player in baseball," said Oates. "At the time, and right now, for whatever reason, I guess you'd have to say that Jose Canseco is the one player who'd get you to buy a ticket the most.
"But for the future, if he keeps his head on straight, I think Griffey Jr. is the guy you'd buy a ticket to see play because 15 years from now he could have a chance to be shooting for a lot of records."
In addition to his grand slam last night, Griffey put his stamp on the game with a couple of great catches. The first came in the first inning on a drive hit by Randy Milligan with the bases loaded. That play may have turned the game around before it really got started. "The Kid" also made a stellar play of a drive hit by Juan Bell leading off the fourth inning.
* OATES: INCENTIVES NO FACTOR: Oates strongly denied that incentive clauses in Jeff Robinson's contract had anything to do with his being taken out of the Orioles' rotation. "The first time I heard anything about it was after I told him he was coming out of the rotation," said Oates.
"I never want to know about any incentives," said Oates, "and they will never influence who I play. In fairness to our organization, I was the one who made the decisions.
"I can honestly say I had no knowledge of any incentive clauses."
* THIS 'N THAT: Outfielder Chito Martinez left the club after last night's game to go to his home in New Orleans, where his wife was ready to give birth. He is expected to rejoin the club in Chicago on Friday. . . Bell hit the ball sharply four straight times, but had to settle for one hit, a second-inning double. . . Cal Ripken had his 44th multi-hit game when he slapped a single and his 22nd home run.