SEATTLE -- The last two times Orioles left-handed reliever Jim Poole has stayed on the bullpen mound with Seattle's Ken Griffey at the plate in the eighth inning of a game, Griffey has made the Orioles wonder what might have happened if Poole had entered the game.
Griffey led off the eighth last night at the Kingdome with a home run into the seats well beyond the center-field wall off left-hander Jamie Moyer, tying the score and bringing Oates to the mound to take the ball from Moyer and give it to Alan Mills.
Jay Buhner made it back-to-back home runs by greeting Mills with a less-titanic shot over the fence in center. The homers lifted the Mariners to a 5-4 comeback victory in the opener of a three-game series.
They came less than one week after Oates brought Brad Pennington in to replace Moyer and face Griffey with the bases loaded and the Orioles leading 6-3 in the eighth. One wild pitch and a three-run Eutaw Street home run later, the Mariners took a one-run lead that Bobby Ayala protected with Seattle's first save.
Ayala earned the Mariners' second save after shutting out the Orioles in the ninth last night. Bill Risley (1-0), recalled from Triple-A yesterday to replace released Bobby Thigpen, earned the win.
Mills (0-1) took the loss after allowing his fifth home run in 6 2/3 innings.
Oates relied on his new favorite post-game tactic when asked about his decision to leave Moyer in the game to face Griffey. He asked reporters what they would have done.
Bring in Poole, two answered at separate times.
"If you start the inning with Poole, you've got nothing to get the left-handed hitters out the rest of the way," Oates said. "If you bring in Poole for one batter, then bring in Mills to face Jay Buhner, how are you going to get Eric Anthony out when he pinch hits for [Greg] Pirkl?"
Anthony was a career .224 hitter coming into this season and is a .243 hitter this year, so a few managers have answered that question.
Moyer made it seven consecutive games in which the Orioles starter has pitched into the eighth. Had he faced one less batter, he might have earned the win.
But Oates decided to let Moyer pitch to Griffey. Moyer retired Griffey on a pop to short in the first, a swinging strikeout in the third and a double-play grounder in the fifth.
"That had nothing to do with it," Oates said. "Moyer's the guy who should have been facing Griffey."
Said Moyer: "I was starting to get tired, but why not go face him and get him out? I got him out three times earlier."
Sixth-inning home runs by Rafael Palmeiro and Chris Hoiles off Seattle left-hander Greg Hibbard gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead in a game they trailed 3-1 after four innings.
April always had been the cruelest month for Palmeiro.
A year ago, Palmeiro hit .183 with one home run and eight RBIs for the Texas Rangers in April. His April career totals (.279, 13 home runs, 67 RBIs) coming into this season were his worst for any month.
Different team, different April.
The home runs were the 11th and 12th in the past four games for the Orioles.
Palmeiro's eighth home run tied him for the American League lead. It was the fourth off a left-hander.
It was the third home run in four games for Palmeiro. Hoiles, who has five home runs, has homered in each of his past three games.
The home runs by Palmeiro and Hoiles gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead and sent Hibbard out of the game with one out in the sixth.
Down 3-1 going into the fifth, the Orioles cut the deficit in half. Chris Sabo and Tim Hulett singled to left to start the inning and moved up a base on Mark McLemore's sacrifice bunt. Sabo came home on Brady Anderson's grounder to second.
The bottom of the order gave Moyer trouble in the Mariners' two-run fourth. After he retired the first two batters, Moyer walked Tino Martinez. Bill Haselman followed with a double into the left-field corner. Anderson retrieved it quickly enough to prevent the run from scoring.
But Felix Fermin, the Mariners' light-hitting shortstop, lined a double down the first-base line to score both runners for a 3-1 lead.
The Mariners had tied the game 1-1 with a run on the third. Brian Turang reached on a one-out double and scored from second on a line single to center.
That brought the Mariners' two most dangerous hitters to the plate with a runner on. Griffey struck out swinging and Buhner flied to right.
Credit the Orioles' first-inning run to Jeffrey Hammonds' speed and to the worst defensive team in baseball adhering to form.
After Hibbard walked Anderson on four pitches, Hammonds hit a grounder to short that for most runners would be a double-play ball. But Hammonds beat second baseman Rich Amaral's relay.
With Palmeiro at the plate, Haselman failed to handle a low pitch from Hibbard and was charged with a passed ball. Haselman caught Hammonds taking a wide turn at second and hurried a throw that took off into center field. Hammonds got up from his head-first slide back into second, took third on the throwing error and scored on Palmeiro's grounder to second.
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Site: Kingdome, Seattle
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (4-1, 3.19) vs. Mariners' Randy Johnson (2-1, 4.58)