SEATTLE -- There were motivational tools all over the place last night, but the Orioles could not get the job done.
They had the revenge factor, with much-hated right-hander Tim Leary on the mound for the Seattle Mariners.
They had the divisional incentive, with a chance to take advantage of a historic 20-run loss by the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
They had only to defeat the last-place Mariners to move to within 1 1/2 games of the American League East lead, but instead accepted an ugly 6-4 loss in the opener of a three-game series at the Kingdome.
Another opportunity lost on a night when the Orioles had everything to gain.
Right-hander Ben McDonald lasted four innings and gave up 10 hits on the way to his third consecutive loss. The usually dependable Orioles defense committed three errors to equal a season high. The offense took small advantage of a struggling pitcher whose face has been dart-board fodder for the past two months. It was a dismal team effort made more disappointing by the team's inability to take something out of the Blue Jays' 22-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
"Five hits, three errors and they got 14 hits," manager Johnny Oates said. "That says it all. There are three things you have to do in this game -- hit, pitch and catch the ball -- and we didn't do any of them."
Leary (6-6) pitched five innings and walked seven batters, but he would find a way to come out the victor, winning for the first time since he defeated Baltimore in a June 21 performance at Camden Yards that still has the Orioles up in arms.
This was one of those nights when old acquaintances could not be forgotten. Leary became public enemy No. 1 in Baltimore when he hit catcher Chris Hoiles on the wrist with an allegedly illegal pitch. Hoiles, who was on pace to hit more than 30 home runs, fractured the ulna and only recently returned to the Orioles lineup.
That still has the Orioles steaming.
The Orioles were on the lookout for any sign of illegal activity this time, but Leary pitched five innings without suspicious incident. Instead, it would be the Mariners who were on the warpath after an inside fastball struck first baseman Kevin Mitchell on the left hand in the third inning and sent him to a nearby hospital for precautionary X-rays.
Retaliation? Extremely unlikely. There was some tough talk in the Orioles clubhouse after Leary hit Hoiles 10 weeks ago, but Leary had since been traded from the New York Yankees to the Mariners. No one seriously believed that McDonald would make Leary's new teammates pay for a two-month-old grudge.
Except maybe Mitchell, who made a move toward the mound and shouted some angry words at McDonald before leaving the game. The X-rays would prove negative, but Mitchell could be out of action for the rest of the series.
McDonald almost let the game get out of hand at that point. The Orioles had manufactured a first-inning run, but he gave up a run-scoring single to Mitchell in the bottom of the first and surrendered another run in the third before plunking Mitchell with the bases empty and two outs.
Tino Martinez followed with a single, and McDonald walked Jay Buhner to load the bases, bringing rookie Bret Boone to the plate with a chance to break the game open. Boone jumped ahead 3-1 on the count, then struck out on two fastballs up and out of the strike zone.
The Orioles tied the score at 2 on an RBI single by Bill Ripken in the fourth, but McDonald continued to struggle. He gave up three straight hits to open the bottom of the inning and allowed the Mariners to forge ahead again.
"I just made bad pitches in bad situations and that cost us some runs," McDonald said. "It wasn't a very good night overall. We kicked the ball around, and I didn't throw well.
"I'm not discouraged. I get to go back out there in five days. We didn't lose any ground. We're still there. We just need to play better and I need to pitch better."
McDonald had runners on base in all five innings he appeared, but managed to keep the Mariners off the scoreboard in only one of them. The Mariners finally knocked him out of the game with a home run and two singles in the fifth.
"It was a combination of things," Oates said. "He was up in the strike zone and facing a team that is very hot with the bat right now. That combination is like gasoline on a fire."
It was not a memorable night for Randy Milligan, either. He committed an error that contributed to the Mariners' first run and literally booted a ball into Mariners dugout for a fluke triple in the third.
The play is certain to show up on some highlight reels. Milligan appeared to get a glove on a sharp ground ball down the line, but the ball popped out of his glove and he inadvertently kicked it more than 100 feet down the right field line. Vizquel ended up at third base and scored on a ground out. It was a tough play to begin with, so the official scorer had to rule it a three-base hit.
Leary and McDonald looked like two men on a tightrope throughout the early innings. The Orioles loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the fifth and could only score once. The Mariners responded as they had to two earlier Baltimore rallies, coming right back in the bottom of the inning to knock McDonald out of the game.
Tino Martinez put Seattle back on top with a leadoff homer -- the 30th home run given up this year by McDonald, who leads the major leagues in that dubious department. Buhner and Boone followed with back-to-back singles to run him out of the game.
Leary gave up just three hits over five innings, but he walked seven batters and did not answer the bell for the sixth.