SEATTLE -- The Mariners completed their warm-ups just before the start of last night's game, and third baseman Edgar Martinez flipped the ball to his 6-foot-10 pitcher. Then Randy Johnson bent down behind the mound and tucked his head down for a moment of contemplation.
He could've been praying for the Orioles.
Johnson struck out nine in the first four innings and finished with 13 in seven innings as the Mariners routed Ben McDonald and the Orioles, 8-3. Orioles batters finished with 17 strikeouts, breaking the club record of 15 that had been set three times
previously. The Orioles have lost five of their past six and cemented their hold on last place in the AL East; they stand six games out of first.
But the win was costly for Seattle. Center fielder Ken Griffey made an incredible catch in the top of the seventh inning, but fractured his left wrist on the play. He will undergo surgery and will miss approximately three months.
Orioles right fielder Kevin Bass had hammered a long drive to right-center. At first glance, it appeared Griffey had no chance of reaching the ball, and yet he got there. He leaped into the air, backhanded the ball and crashed into the wall with both feet, his head thumping against the matting, his left wrist absorbing the impact.
When Griffey fell to the ground, on his back, he was holding his left wrist awkwardly. Seattle right fielder Alex Diaz, the first player to reach Griffey, beckoned desperately for a trainer, and Griffey started walking off the field in obvious pain.
Griffey had walked, singled, homered and scored two runs for Seattle. Cal Ripken had three hits for the Orioles -- two hustling infield hits and a double into the left-field corner in the seventh -- and catcher Chris Hoiles hit a three-run homer.
Right now, Johnson vs. the Orioles is like the 49ers vs. the Chargers, the 1970 Orioles against the 1962 Mets. Total mismatch. A bad day to Johnson these days is giving up two runs -- he began last night's game with a 1.21 ERA.
On the other side, the Orioles sport a roster of batting averages better suited for a Bingo game. You know, O-67. Damon Buford, .067. O-69. Matt Nokes, .069.
And Johnson dominated the Orioles in the early innings. He whiffed Hoiles and Jeff Manto to end the first inning with runners at first and second. The second inning ended with strikeouts of Rafael Palmeiro and Leo Gomez.
In the third, Brady Anderson and Ripken struck out. Manto doubled in the fourth inning, but around that, Johnson blew away Hoiles, Palmeiro and Gomez. Anderson went down again in the fifth. The Mariners scored three in the bottom of the fifth and took a 4-0 lead.
The only consolation for the Orioles was that by racking up all those strikeouts, Johnson was throwing lots of pitches, 70 after four innings.
Bass doubled to open the Orioles' sixth, and Ripken hustled out a chopper toward the first-base hole, lunging at the bag with his final stride. First base umpire Tim Tschida called Ripken safe when first baseman Tino Martinez pulled his foot off the bag.
Hoiles was next. Before the game, he had talked about when Johnson had struck him out twice and then Hoiles had hit a homer.
Teammate Matt Nokes, overhearing this, said, "Chris, you're taking him deep tonight."
Hoiles said, "Man, that would be nice."
This was a similar situation, because Hoiles had struck out in his first two at-bats. The count went full, and four times Hoiles fouled off fastballs. Johnson went with a slider, and Hoiles fouled that off, too.
Another fastball -- and Hoiles rocked it, a three-run homer to draw the Orioles to within a run.
The inning continued with a walk to Manto and a single by Gomez. Seattle manager Lou Piniella walked slowly out to the mound, stood there for a while, not really saying much before returning to the dugout.
With two outs, Jeffrey Hammonds pinch-hit for Buford, little more than an hour after arriving at the Kingdome. Earlier in the day, Hammonds had been called up from Double-A Bowie.
Welcome back. Now go hit Randy Johnson.
Hammonds struck out, Johnson's 12th in the first six innings.
The Mariners blew the game open in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs against relievers Jamie Moyer, Mike Oquist and Jesse Orosco.
The Mariners had jumped on McDonald early, Griffey doing much of the damage.
Griffey was the first Seattle player out for pre-game batting practice, and about a dozen Orioles sat in the dugout and watched and gave running commentary.
Griffey hit the first pitch thrown to him about 400 feet over the right-field wall.
"Can you believe that?" said pitcher Mike Mussina. "No warm-ups or anything and he hits the ball out."
Believe it or not, Griffey was actually in the throes of a slump, his average at .247 when the evening began. It would improve.
He singled in the first inning, and in the third, McDonald walked him with one out. Griffey then scored the Mariners' first run when tTC Jay Buhner lashed a 2-2 fastball, high and over the middle of the plate, off the right-field wall.