MIAMI -- The Orioles' late-inning relief is just like the weather. Everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it.
Both conspired against the Orioles last night in a doubleheader loss to the Florida Marlins before 13,003 at waterlogged Pro Player Stadium. Doormats to the National League but terrors to the American League, the Marlins won the opener, 2-1, on Jesse Orosco's two-out bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning and welcomed Scott Kamieniecki's return from Triple-A Rochester with a two-run eighth in the second game to leave the Orioles with a 5-3 loss.
The twin losses give the $84 million Orioles seven in their last nine games and dropped them to 21-36 overall, eclipsing the $18 million Marlins for the game's second-worst record. Florida has won seven straight, a streak that leads the majors, as does its 25-11 interleague record.
The opener wasn't just another loss but 5 hours and 18 minutes of South Florida water torture. The Orioles endured two rain delays for a total 2: 29, an artificially shortened start by Mike Mussina and the predictable anxiety of four innings from their bullpen before losing on an infield single, two walks and a hit batsman.
They also managed only six hits against Marlins starter Ryan Dempster and three relievers, their only offense coming on B. J. Surhoff's fourth-inning home run good for a 1-0 lead.
Making matters worse, Orioles manager Ray Miller thought his team was about to benefit from a second rain delay before the National League umpiring crew ordered the game resumed.
"They told me they'd give it 20 minutes then bang it; then they came back and told me they were going to play it," said Miller. "My only argument was if you're not going to play a doubleheader, and it's an official game, and you've waited 1 1/2 hours and you've got to do all that work on the field, you would probably bang it. They said, no, they wouldn't."
Instead of a five-inning, 1-0 win and a feel-good finish for Mussina, the Orioles sunk to 14 games below .500 for the first time this season and wasted another solid outing by their ace.
"It's a shame a real shame," Miller said between games. "Moose should have about 10 wins by now."
Moose chose not to comment.
Mussina remains 7-3 and is 0-2 in his last three starts despite a 2.75 ERA. He was joined by Mike Timlin (2-5) in the frustration line.
Timlin entered the eighth inning with none out and runners inherited from Doug Johns at second and third base. His reward for escaping the situation with only one run allowed was his fifth blown save.
Fate beat on Timlin some more in the ninth inning when he allowed a leadoff infield single to Bruce Aven. After a bunt, Orosco walked Tim Hyers, hit Dave Berg with a two-strike pitch to load the bases, then walked Luis Castillo on a full count one pitch after a debatable checked swing extended the at-bat.
"He walked Hyers, a lefty, and he hit the guy to load the bases," said Miller. "He thought he got the guy on a checked swing but didn't get the call. We walked the bases loaded. Everything I feared happened. I lose my starter after five innings, we sit here for 19 hours in a monsoon with basically three pitchers to use."
Because of Mussina's weather-related departure, the bullpen was forced to cover 5 2/3 innings for the night -- two innings fewer than the Marlins, whose starters surrendered only one earned run in 10 1/3 innings.
Though he never appeared, Arthur Rhodes warmed six times during the doubleheader. Miller anticipated using Kamieniecki behind Game 2 starter Jason Johnson but didn't plan on him handling a 3-3 game.
In the second game the Orioles overcame a 3-0 deficit with a three-run eighth inning built with five consecutive hits, but immediately fell back when Kamieniecki -- making his first appearance since May 13 -- surrendered three straight hits in the bottom of the inning. First baseman Hyers completed a four-hit day with a triple into the right-field corner to score Berg, who went 4-for-4 and scored three times.
Just prior to the first pitch the Pro Player Stadium turnstile count remained in the dozens though the club insisted gates had been opened prior to the national anthem. Even a scheduled protest of the Orioles by four groups of Cuban exiles failed to pump the gate. Two protesters, one carrying a misspelled sign blasting Orioles majority owner Peter "Angelo," sat quietly in their second-level seats and granted interviews to breathless South Florida media.
A 28-minute rain delay interrupted the first inning as Miller's desire to give Mussina a hassle-free outing fizzled.
Had the Marlins not decided to postpone Monday's game, Miller would have replaced his ace with fifth starter Johnson.
As is, Mussina handled the first delay with no problem. He allowed only one hit and two base runners through four innings while the Orioles groped for a run against Marlins starter Ryan Dempster.
Dempster allowed only three hits through 5 1/3 innings before a 2: 01 rain delay chased both himand Mussina.