SEATTLE -- The race for the Comeback Player of the Year Award heated up considerably last night at the Kingdome, where Rick Sutcliffe and Glenn Davis stumped for votes at the expense of the beleaguered Seattle Mariners.
Davis hit a pair of two-run homers and Sutcliffe came back on two days' rest to record his sixth victory of the year as the Orioles pounded the Mariners, 13-8, to even the three-game series at a game apiece.
The Orioles hammered left-hander Randy Johnson and a parade of relievers for 13 hits in the first five innings to keep the pressure off Sutcliffe, who had struggled badly in his two previous appearances.
He had given up eight runs in a May 18 loss to the Oakland Athletics and six runs in 2 2/3 innings to the California Angels on Saturday, but got the opportunity to come right back last night because right-hander Mike Mussina had to be scratched from the series with a severe stomach virus.
Sutcliffe (6-4) was far from overpowering. He stayed around an inning too long and turned a decent outing into a six-run, 12-hit night, but he was never in serious danger of losing his grip on the game. With the victory, he equaled his win total for the 1990 and '91 seasons combined.
"I might not have had my good stuff at the end," Sutcliffe said, "but our bullpen is a little thin right now and I'm a big part of the reason for that. If I work into the eighth inning the other day, the bullpen would have been stronger. The fact that I gave up a few earned runs didn't bother me. For me, this was a big step in the right direction."
But it also was a big step for the team, which had lost six of its previous eight games. Sutcliffe cruised through the early innings, then labored through a two-run fourth and struggled into the seventh.
"The first three innings went pretty easy for him, but he pitched a ballgame in the fourth," Oates said. "After that, he was gassed. I think we all know that without all those runs, he wouldn't have been out there that long. With [Alan] Mills and Storm [Davis] and Mike Flanagan tired, those innings were important to us."
Glenn Davis was making only his 10th start of the season, but he proved that he still can be the impact player that the Orioles were looking for when they traded for him last year. He homered off Mariners reliever Calvin Jones in the fourth inning and again in the fifth on the way to his biggest offensive performance since he drove in five runs against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 20 of last year.
Neither home run was decisive, however. The Orioles had built a lopsided lead, thanks to big offensive performances from throughout the lineup and another big blowup by Johnson, who was also the opposing starter in the Orioles' 15-1 victory over the Mariners at Camden Yards on May 1.
Brady Anderson drove in three runs with a single and a double. Randy Milligan reached base in four consecutive innings (How often does that happen?). Bill Ripken singled in his first three at-bats. Chito Martinez hit his first home run of the year. Every member of the Orioles starting lineup except David Segui had reached base at least twice by the fifth inning.
The Orioles might be the only team in the American League that looks forward to facing Johnson, and why not? The first time he faced Baltimore this year, he walked 10 batters and gave up eight earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. This time, he didn't last half that long, but he managed to pack three walks, two wild pitches and one wild pickoff throw in two ugly innings before giving way to former Orioles right-hander Dave Schmidt.
Johnson is 0-2 with a 15.63 ERA against the Orioles this year. He is 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA against the rest of the league. Lifetime, he is 1-4 with a 5.55 ERA against Baltimore.
The Orioles failed to take advantage of a walk and a wild pickoff throw that put Mike Devereaux at third with one out in the first, but they sent eight men to the plate and scored three times to send Johnson to his earliest exit of the season.
It was obvious that he wasn't right, even considering his history of control problems. He walked Milligan to lead off the inning and then moved him around to third with two very wild pitches. When he finally threw the ball in the strike zone, he gave up an run-scoring single to Segui, a sharp single to Bill Ripken and a run-scoring hit to Anderson. Devereaux brought home the third run with a sacrifice fly.
Manager Bill Plummer recently moved to a four-man starting rotation, but Johnson's first appearance on three days' rest might have been enough to convince the Mariners to find another way to solve their starter shortage.
Schmidt didn't fare much better. He came on in the third and allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach base as the Orioles tacked on four more runs to put Sutcliffe in a very comfortable situation.
Anderson delivered a big blow again, lining a two-run double up the alley in right-center field to complete a four-run assault that also included run-scoring hits by Leo Gomez and Ripken.