SEATTLE — `TC SEATTLE -- The Baltimore Orioles rediscovered right-hander Dave Johnson last night, but they needed a little help from the Seattle Mariners to avert a three-game sweep at the Kingdome.
Mariners outfielder Greg Briley allowed a base hit by Randy Milligan to bounce over his head for a game-tying triple in the ninth inning and the Orioles went on to score a 4-2 victory in 11 innings.
Catcher Chris Hoiles drove in two runs with a one-out single in the 11th to end a five-game losing streak and save the Orioles the indignity of wasting a solid performance by Johnson in his first start since April 29.
Johnson, who spent the past three months on the disabled list, worked 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on seven hits, but he looked like the losing pitcher until designated hitter Sam Horn led off the ninth with a single and Milligan's fluke triple tied the game.
"I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well," manager Joh Oates said. "He didn't have great command of his fastball like he has, but we all know he's a battler. He made some good pitches against a hot ballclub. Knowing that he hasn't pitched a lot of innings and knowing the way this team has hit him in the past, he deserves a lot of credit."
The Orioles wasted a great opportunity to take the lead when Milligan was caught in a rundown between third and home, but bounced back to defeat reliever Bill Swift on Hoiles' bases-loaded hit.
The victory went to reliever Mike Flanagan (his second) and the ** save went to Gregg Olson (his 22nd), but the evening belonged to Johnson, who kept the club in the game after back-to-back early inning blowouts in the first two games of the series.
Johnson was good, but Mariners rookie Rich DeLucia was a little bit better, giving up a run on five hits over 7 1/3 innings to record his 10th victory.
Johnson was the first to say that it was -- in his words -- put-up or shut-up time. He had been waiting around for a chance to re-enter the starting rotation for much of the past month and had made no secret of his dismay at the club's seeming reluctance to give him another chance to pitch.
"I was glad to be able to keep the team in the game after everything that has happened," Johnson said. "I know I can do the job and I think Johnny [Oates] thinks I can do the job, but I still have to go out and prove that I can do the job.
"This is a boost for my confidence, knowing that I won't have to be on pins and needles the next time out."
He had not started a game since April 29, when he was hit hard for the third consecutive time and then exiled to the bullpen. Two weeks later, he went on the disabled list with a deeply strained groin muscle and did not make another major-league appearance until Friday, when he pitched in relief against the Oakland Athletics.
"It's time to do it," Johnson said earlier this week, "not as in this start but as in the rest of the season. It's time to do the job. So much has been said. I went out of my way to say things. Now it's time to go out and do it."
His return Friday was not exactly triumphant. Johnson gave up a grand slam to the second batter he faced and went on to give up three homers in three innings, which didn't bode well for his return to the rotation at the cozy Kingdome.
"When you've been talking and then you go out and do that," Johnson said, "people have a right to say either do it or shut up."
Johnson did it last year. He was the winningest pitcher on the club with 13 victories. But he won just one of his first four starts of 1991 and posted a frightening 9.81 ERA in the process.
Last night, he shut out the Mariners through the first four innings before allowing a game-tying single to Ken Griffey Jr. with two outs in the fifth. The Orioles had taken the lead in the second when Horn accepted a leadoff walk and moved around on a double by Milligan and a sacrifice fly by Leo Gomez.
Mariners rookie DeLucia was not unfamiliar with the Orioles. He had faced them three times already, posting a 2-1 record and a 2.79 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.
Interestingly enough, he was the opposing pitcher on April 29 when the Mariners defeated Johnson, 10-1, and hastened his removal from the starting rotation.
DeLucia showed again why he has emerged as one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year award. He held the Orioles to one run after they put runners at second and third with no one out in the second and then settled down to work into the eighth.
The Mariners took the lead in the bottom of the sixth when right fielder Jay Buhner hit a line drive deep into the left-field bleachers for his 17th home run of the season.
Buhner, you might recall, hit a 460-foot shot off Jeff Ballard two weeks ago at Memorial Stadium and also hit a monstrous shot at Yankee Stadium a few days later.
Johnson has always been susceptible to the home-run ball. He gave up a major-league-high 30 homers last year and has given up nine in just 35 2/3 innings this year.