There are surprise endings and then there are shockers. The Orioles' 10-2 loss to Seattle last night was a shocker.
For seven innings, Orioles starter Kevin Brown lorded over Seattle. Controlled them. Weak grounders everywhere. The Orioles led, 2-0.
But by the time the Orioles recorded the second out of the eighth inning, many rather shocking developments had occurred:
1) Seattle had scored nine runs.
2) The Orioles' bullpen -- specifically Armando Benitez -- gave up a grand slam for the third time in less than two weeks.
3) The benches and bullpens of both teams emptied after Benitez drilled Tino Martinez with his first pitch after the grand slam. As the Mariners and Orioles jostled across the infield, there was much woofing and punching, and Benitez was ejected.
4) Brown, so extraordinary for so long, was the losing pitcher.
5) The Orioles turned almost certain victory into defeat.
Well, maybe that last one wasn't such a shocker after all.
After the game, Benitez, frustrated, had his locker cleaned out by a clubhouse attendant, all of its contents dumped into a duffel bag.
Orioles manager Phil Regan was asked if Benitez had been sent to the minors. No, he said. After being told that Benitez's locker was empty, Regan called in pitching coach Mike Flanagan and asked him to check out the situation.
Flanagan walked into the clubhouse, peeked into Benitez's locker and returned. Yeah, he said, the stuff is packed. Flanagan then went and found Benitez, who was talking with veteran reliever Doug Jones, and Benitez met with Regan and Flanagan for about 10 minutes.
"He's a very sensitive person," Regan said. "I'm sure that he was hurt and embarrassed by what he did." Benitez told reporters he had to leave, without commenting.
A crazy night. A crazy inning.
"What can I say?" Regan said. "It was a tough inning."
Brown had so thoroughly mastered the Mariners that when the eighth inning began, he had allowed just two hits, and just one ball had cleared the infield in the air.
Brown hit Doug Strange with a pitch to start the eighth, and Marc Newfield singled sharply to left. In the air. An omen.
Darren Bragg walked, loading the bases, and the crowd of 38,407 was growing restless with just a 2-0 lead. But Regan stuck with Brown, figuring that his best chance to get out of the inning was a ground ball double play. And who better to get a grounder than Brown?
Sure enough, Brown got a potential DP roller to Manny Alexander -- who missed it. Error, one run in, bases still loaded, still nobody out.
One out later, with the bases still loaded, however, Cora singled to center, scoring two, and the Orioles suddenly trailed.
Regan walked out of the dugout to make a change, and for the first time this year, he heard some boos. Brown stalked off angrily, and Benitez relieved.
There was no relief. Alex Diaz walked, loading the bases once more, and Edgar Martinez smashed a grand slam into the left-field stands, the fourth allowed by the O's since May 25.
It was too much, apparently, for Benitez to take, because his next pitch hit Tino Martinez in the shoulder, and as plate umpire Dave Phillips tried to keep Martinez from charging the mound, the rest of the Orioles and Mariners ran onto the field.
The Mariners' point man was left-hander Randy Johnson, who seems to be in the middle of these things on a regular basis. He pointed at Benitez, who was pulled away by teammates Jesse Orosco and Brad Pennington.
Pennington said: "I think he [Benitez] had a lot of frustration. . . . I was afraid he was going to hit Jesse and myself, to tell you the truth. . . . I think he had a lot of frustration built up and wanted to hit someone."
Martinez said: "I know it was done on purpose. . . . You either charge the mound or go to first base and keep your mouth shot. I didn't do either."
Somebody asked Martinez if he was glad he didn't charge Benitez.
"No comment," he said.
Benitez was ejected, and replaced by Alan Mills (some irony there: Mills was in the thick of the awful fight between the Orioles and Mariners two years ago).
Strange hit Mills' second pitch for a two-run homer, good for the Mariners' eighth and ninth runs of the inning and of the game -- the biggest inning against the Orioles' this season.
A shocker. Brown had been so good.
For seven innings, nothing but grounders.
But Brown can pay a price for all those ground balls, and he did last night. In the early innings, the Mariners kept lashing the bouncers up the middle; the hitters were like pinball flippers, Brown like a bumper, continuously taking shots off various parts of his body.
But bodily harm was about the only damage the Mariners could inflict on Brown until the eighth inning. Martinez rolled a single up the middle in the first, Seattle's first hit, and they would not get another until Martinez singled again in the seventh inning.