Mariners rally late to put Orioles behind eight ball Valenzuela's effort wasted in 5-3 loss

August 18, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- It just keeps getting worse.

Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela was on the verge of an uplifting victory last night, but the Seattle Mariners rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull out a 5-3 victory and extend the Orioles' losing streak to eight games.

Valenzuela (6-7) gave up just three hits through seven innings and looked as if he was going to even his record for the first time since putting on an Orioles uniform, but he yielded back-to-back doubles to rookie outfielder Brian Turang and designated hitter Ken Griffey to open the eighth.

It would have taken a big assist from the Orioles bullpen to get Valenzuela out of this jam, and it wasn't to come. Todd Frohwirth came on to give up a bouncer through the right side to put runners at first and third. Jim Poole followed him to the mound and got a big strikeout, but right-hander Alan Mills gave up a walk and a two-run single to second baseman Bret Boone to put the Mariners in front.

And so the slide continued. The loss, coupled with another victory by first-place Toronto, dropped the Orioles 6 1/2 games out of first place. It also extended the Orioles' losing streak to the same length as the winning streak that preceded it.

"You go into the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead and you feel like you're going to put an end to this damn losing streak," Poole said. "We just have to come back tomorrow and do it. We're not out of it yet."

Mills declined to comment on the pivotal moment in the game. LTC So did manager Johnny Oates, who closed his office to reporters after the game. It was that kind of night.

The Orioles hadn't lost eight straight since July 19-27, 1989, and the streak equals the longest since the infamous 21-game losing streak that opened the 1988 season.

Right-hander Chris Bosio, who last faced the Orioles in the brawl game on June 6, pitched eight innings and gave up three runs on seven hits to improve his record to 6-7 -- with one inning of help from veteran reliever Ted Power.

Valenzuela probably pitched a better game, but ended up with his fifth consecutive no-decision.

"It doesn't matter [how well] I did," Valenzuela said. "The final score is the only thing that counts."

Valenzuela came into the game with a 10-start unbeaten string that dates back to June 19, but he still was fighting for his place in the starting rotation.

Oates is looking for an opening for Mike Mussina, and none of the Orioles' three veteran starters can take his job for granted.

The unbeaten string is a little deceptive. Valenzuela gave up seven runs in the first inning of last Thursday's game against Detroit, but got off the hook because the Orioles battled back to tie before eventually losing, 17-11. In his start before that, he gave up four runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings in a game the Orioles eventually won.

He has not won since he pitched back-to-back six-hitters against the Minnesota Twins on July 18 and 27. In his four straight no-decisions leading up to last night's game, his ERA was 10.59.

Oates has given little indication of what he'll decide. He did say earlier this week there is a possibility he'll keep all six starters on the staff and be flexible with the final spot in the rotation. The club doesn't exactly have a surplus of veteran pitchers in the bullpen.

If that's the way it turns out, Valenzuela may be in the best position to remain in the rotation because he is not particularly suited for the bullpen and he has proved to be very ineffective as a spot starter. Left-hander Jamie Moyer might be the most adaptable to a relief role, but he pitched well in his last outing and will try to do the same today.

The most vulnerable starter appears to be veteran Rick Sutcliffe, who is 1-7 with a 7.97 ERA in his last 10 starts and whose spot in the rotation lines up most closely with Mussina's return on Friday.

Whatever the situation, Valenzuela was prepared last night. He gave up two hits and three walks in the first three innings, but was not scored upon until Mariners third baseman Mike Blowers opened the fourth with a home run into the right-field bleachers to give Seattle the lead.

The Orioles managed just two hits through the first four innings against Bosio, but they answered right back with three runs in the top of the fifth.

Newcomer Mike Pagliarulo doubled to lead off the inning and Tim Hulett grounded a single through the middle of the infield to tie the game. Bosio complicated the situation with a walk to Harold Reynolds and Mark Parent moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.

That left Mariners manager Lou Piniella with a tough choice -- to pitch to Anderson or set up Mark McLemore to hit from his strong (left) side and hope for the double play. He chose the latter, walking Anderson and paying for it when McLemore pulled the ball through the right side of the infield for two more runs.

Piniella went against the percentages. McLemore entered the game with a .304 average with runners in scoring position and three hits in five at-bats with the bases loaded. He has been the most consistent hitter on the club and has 58 RBI (mostly out of the No. 2 hole) to prove it.

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