The Orioles started an important homestand last night with a loud thud.
They saw curves from the left and curves from the right froSeattle Mariners rookie Dave Fleming -- and a couple of towering shots that carried over the right-field scoreboard at Camden Yards. The result was an 8-3 victory for Seattle that dropped the Orioles four games behind the American League East-leading Toronto Blue Jays.
The only good news for the Orioles was that they didn't lose any ground to third-place Milwaukee, because the Brewers were thumped, 12-1, by Toronto.
This homestand is considered vital to the Orioles' chances ohanging in the division race for two reasons. Two of the three teams they play (Seattle and the California Angels) have the worst records in the American League, and the Blue Jays are on the road against formidable opponents (Milwaukee, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox).
But that is not enough to assure improvement in the standingsas the Orioles found out last night. "You have to beat everybody," manager Johnny Oates said.
"We didn't get where we are by beating only those teams [belo.500], and we can't get any better just by beating them."
For seven innings last night, the Orioles were mesmerized boff-speed breaking pitches from left-hander Fleming (14-5).
After Mike Devereaux, who had half of the Orioles' hits and drove in all their runs, hit his team-high 17th home run with a man on in the eighth, it was right-hander Jeff Nelson who used a tantalizing breaking ball to finish up.
Nelson, who went to Catonsville High and CatonsvillCommunity College, recorded his third major-league save by pitching the last 1 2/3 innings. He needed a couple of strikeouts to survive a scary situation after relieving Fleming.
A two-run home run by Jay Buhner (No. 19) off Ben McDonal(12-8) in the fourth inning put the Mariners ahead to stay. And Ken Griffey hit his 23rd homer of the season -- a career high -- a three-run shot in the ninth off Storm Davis.
"Except for the pitch to Buhner, I thought Ben threw the ball verwell," Oates said of McDonald, who gave up eight hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings. The home run was the 28th yielded by McDonald this year, the most in the major leagues.
For Fleming, a leading Rookie of the Year hopeful, it was hisecond victory over the Orioles in as many starts. He won, 7-3, in Seattle two months ago and didn't pitch any differently last night.
"He moved the ball in and out and changed speeds very well,Oates said. "That's twice he's done it that way against us -- and evidently he's done it against some other teams."
The Orioles put their offense in gear early against Fleming, then shifted into reverse. Brady Anderson was hit by a pitch leading off the first inning and scored when Devereaux hit a double into the left-field corner. The inning ground to a halt when Cal Ripken, Glenn Davis and Randy Milligan went out routinely.
Chito Martinez was stranded after a two-out double in the second inning, and the Orioles wasted two singles in the third.
Meanwhile, trying to win for the first time in his past five starts a home, McDonald held the Mariners to one hit during the first three innings. But in the fourth, it took only two batters for the Mariners to take the lead. Tino Martinez grounded a single to right field, and then Buhner lofted a fly over the right-field scoreboard.
"It was a slider that didn't do much," McDonald said. "I thought it was just a fly ball at first, but he [Buhner] did a good job with it.
"I wanted to throw him a breaking ball in that situation [a 2-count] because he's a good fastball hitter. The pitch was in on him, and he hit it from the inside out."
McDonald worked his way into the seventh inning, when a leadoff double by Harold Reynolds set up the Mariners' third run. Omar Vizquel's sacrifice bunt attempt went for a single, leaving runners on first and third. Edgar Martinez followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Reynolds.
The Mariners added a run in the eighth when Davis, whreplaced Pat Clements (who relieved McDonald in the seventh), gave up a run-scoring single to Dave Valle.
Fleming was gone after a one-out single by Anderson and thhome run by Devereaux in the bottom of the eighth. "I was going along pretty good, then I seemed to run out of gas," Fleming said. "I got the pitch up to Devo, and he hit it out."
, Mariners-Orioles scoring Orioles first: Anderson hit by pitch. Devereaux doubled down the left-field line, Anderson scored. C.Ripken grounded out to shortstop Vizquel, Devereaux to third. G.Davis popped out to second baseman Reynolds. Milligan grounded out to shortstop Vizquel. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 1, Mariners 0.