Virtually everything went wrong for the Orioles, but manager Johnny Oates found a glimmer of hope despite a wild 10-8 loss to the Seattle Mariners last night at Camden Yards.
"For the last two days I didn't feel we went at it the way I'm used to seeing the Baltimore Orioles go about their job," said Oates. "In comparison, I'm encouraged by what I saw tonight [last night]."
Not that it was a night for encouragement.
Rookie left-hander Arthur Rhodes (4-3) lost for the third straight time; reliever Todd Frohwirth gave up a bases-loaded home run to the only batter he faced and was thrown out of the game; and right fielder Chito Martinez, who had a productive day at the plate, made a costly error that led to a pair of unearned runs.
"We're not playing championship-caliber ball right now," said Oates.
"You can't make the physical and mental errors that we're making, and we made too many tonight.
"Our location on a couple of pitches was bad and we gave them a couple of runs that hurt. We can't keep doing those things. You make your own breaks, and we're not doing that right now."
The first grand slam of Edgar Martinez's career, his 15th home run of the season, was the blow that set off the Mariners -- and Frohwirth. The Mariners led 3-2 at the time and the right-hander had just arrived as a replacement for Rhodes, whose control dictated his early departure.
Frohwirth got to a 1-2 count on Martinez, who had three hits to raise his league-leading average to .336, and threw a sweeping breaking ball that he thought was a third strike. Plate umpire Larry Barnett ruled otherwise, and Martinez hit the next pitch into the left-field seats.
Before the ball had been returned from the stands, as is customary with an opposition home run, Frohwirth instigated a one-sided debate with Barnett. It ended with an ejection and subsequent equipment-shedding floor show that could lead to a possible fine and/or suspension.
Oates would not second-guess his reliever's blowup, even though it forced him to use Alan Mills, who will now miss his scheduled start Saturday against Oakland.
As it turned out, the game was hardly decided in the fourth inning. Despite trailing by as many as six runs, the Orioles made a run at the Mariners that didn't stop until Chito Martinez hit into a game-ending double play.
Mark Grant, despite allowing nine hits and six runs in a shaky outing, managed to survive with the win, but he needed help from three relievers. Left-hander Russ Swan earned his ninth save by working the final two innings.
Mike Devereaux, Brady Anderson and Leo Gomez all homered for the Orioles, who lost their fourth straight and remained four games behind the division leading Toronto Blue Jays, who lost in Milwaukee.
For the second night in a row the Orioles got on the scoreboard first. But Devereaux' two-run homer in the bottom of the first, following Anderson's leadoff walk, was merely a signal for the fireworks to begin.
Rhodes began to lose his control in the second inning, and shortly thereafter he also lost the lead. A walk to Tino Martinez was sandwiched between singles by Jay Buhner and Bret Boone, who got his first major-league hit and run batted in on his first at-bat.
After a sacrifice bunt by Dave Valle, Omar Vizqel popped up and then Henry Cotto bounced a double over third base to drive in two runs and give the Mariners a 3-2 lead.
Rhodes set up his exit by walking Boone and Valle to start the fourth inning. When he also walked Cotto, after Vizquel's sacrifice bunt, Rhodes was finished for the evening -- his earliest exit in eight starts.
That's when Frohwirth entered and things really got out of hand.
The Orioles got a gift run back in the fourth, when Cotto and Ken Griffey had a communication problem and Chito Martinez' looper fell into left-centerfield for a double. Anderson drove in the run with a two-out single to left.
Two innings later, the Mariners added a pair of unearned runs off Mills after Cotto looped a two-out single to right and Edgar Martinez hit a fly ball that Chito Martinez dropped on the warning track.
Orioles first: Anderson walked. Devereaux homered to left on 1-0 count, Anderson and Devereaux scored. C.Ripken flied out to center fielder Griffey. G.Davis grounded out to shortstop Vizquel. Milligan singled to third. Martinez singled to left, Milligan to second. Gomez flied out to right fielder Buhner. 2 runs, 3 hits,
TC errors, 2 left on. Orioles 2, Mariners 0.
Mariners second: Buhner singled to center. T.Martinez walked, Buhner to second. Boone singled to center, Buhner scored, T.Martinez to second. Valle sacrificed, pitcher Rhodes to second baseman B.Ripken, T.Martinez to third, Boone to second. Vizquel popped out to shortstop C.Ripken. Cotto doubled down the left field line, T.Martinez and Boone scored. E.Martinez grounded out to first baseman Milligan. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Mariners 3, Orioles 2.