Jamie Moyer, the Oriole killer? Sounds strange. He speaks and throws softly and is instinctively gracious and may be the only major-league pitcher who regularly tips his cap toward umpires -- no kidding -- thanking them for their efforts.
Jamie Moyer, the Oriole killer. Sure. The man probably heads a Save The Cockroaches campaign.
But Moyer is killing the Orioles this year. Three wins in three starts now, after he shut them out for eight innings last night in Seattle's 10-3 victory before 47,380 at Camden Yards. The Orioles prevented Moyer from throwing his first shutout and complete game since 1993 by scoring their runs in the ninth, on homers by Mike Devereaux and Brady Anderson.
The Orioles (67-59) lost a chance to move 10 games over .500 for the first time all year and gain ground on the New York Yankees -- thumped by the California Angels, 12-3, last night -- and the Chicago White Sox, who lost a rain-shortened game to the Toronto Blue Jays, 1-0. The Orioles remain five games out of first place in the American League East and a half-game behind Chicago in the wild-card chase. The Mariners moved to 2 1/2 behind the White Sox.
The Orioles were managed by bench coach Andy Etchebarren, filling in for manager Davey Johnson, who checked into St. Joseph Medical Center with an irregular heartbeat. Team doctor William Goldiner said he expects Johnson to be back at work today.
Etchebarren stood in the corner of the Orioles' dugout, leaning back against the No. 4 retired in Earl Weaver's honor, mounted on the wall. Etchebarren saw nothing that could've pleased him, least of all the dominance of Moyer, who stifled a team that had averaged 7.6 runs per game in August.
If Moyer's old team misses the playoffs by a game or two, he will live with the knowledge that he's personally responsible. Three wins against a team that cut him loose after last year, and probably could've had him back if it wanted.
"This is a business," Moyer said, "and they made a business decision for their own reasons."
There it is again, graciousness when he could've been bitter. Moyer went 8-6 with a 5.21 ERA for the Orioles last year, pitching well in June and July, but otherwise throwing inconsistently. He became a free agent after the Orioles declined to offer him arbitration -- though he would've signed for less than the $1.1 million he earned last year -- and signed with the Red Sox.
He began spring training fighting for the No. 5 spot in the Boston, and, coincidentally, it was a strong performance against the Orioles at the end of March that clinched a spot for him. Moyer pitched effectively for the Red Sox, going 7-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Seattle needed pitching help in late July, and after a deal for the Orioles' David Wells fell through, the Mariners traded for Moyer. Last night's win made him 10-2.
He has become, in effect, the Mariners' ace -- at least until Randy Johnson rejoins the rotation. Before the game, Seattle manager Lou Piniella talked about how the Mariners haven't been able to get much out of their starters, and recited the streak of the short outings leading to last night's game -- three innings, five, four. "Reads like a golf card," Piniella joked.
Moyer, then, threw a quadruple bogey at the Orioles. He allowed only two hits over the first eight innings, no walks, no runs. When the Orioles' hitters looked for hard stuff he threw changeups, and when they looked for soft stuff he threw hard, his fastball tailing away from the hitters. If they protected the outside corner, he threw inside, and vice versa.
And he threw strikes. Seattle catcher Dan Wilson remarked to Piniella how easy it was to catch the left-hander, how he knew exactly what he wanted to throw and where. Moyer required one or two pitches in registering 11 of the Orioles' first 24 outs, and three pitches or fewer for 15 of the first 24 outs. He needed only 80 pitches in the first eight innings, throwing 55 strikes. The ninth inning muddied his pitching line, with Norm Charlton finishing the game for him, but not the end result.
"We needed a good ballgame," said Piniella, "and Jamie Moyer certainly gave us one. He knows how to pitch, changes speeds, hits his spots. Impressive."
Said Devereaux: "It's tough to stay off his off-speed stuff. He kept us off-balance most of the night."
Moyer pitched with a huge lead after the Mariners scored 10 runs in the first five innings, pounding Orioles rookie Rocky Coppinger for eight runs.
"Rocky," Etchebarren said, "was a little rocky tonight."
Etchebarren sat in for Johnson in the post-game media briefing. He met reporters in Johnson's office, leaning nervously away from microphones.
Pitching coach Pat Dobson said the dugout was "strange" without Johnson. "It's always strange when the manager's not there," Dobson said.
Somebody asked Etchebarren how he felt.
"It doesn't feel too good when you're down 10-0. We didn't have much of a chance tonight. . . . I know it was my first big-league game managing, but I've been sitting next to Davey for 4 1/2 months since spring training. I know pretty much what he likes to do and I wasn't going to change."
Johnson has a time-honored strategy for those nights when an Oriole killer like Moyer pitches as he pitched: He pries the plug of tobacco out of his cheek, throws it down on the dugout floor and starts thinking about the next game.
Opponent: California Angels
Site: Oriole Park
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Angels' Shawn Boskie (11-6, 4.94) vs. O's David Wells (9-11, 4.96)
Tickets: Sold out
The Orioles' Eddie Murray is two home runs short of 500 for his career. Here's a look at his at-bats last night:
3rd inning: Vs. Moyer. Flied out to center.
5th inning: Vs. Moyer. Flied out to left.
8th inning: Vs. Moyer. Flied out to center.
Pub Date: 8/23/96