O's cap deadline fade in 5-2 loss

Mariners take Ponson deep as 4th loss in 5 ends a telling week

August 01, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- When the Orioles rallied to defeat Anaheim in 11 innings last Sunday at Camden Yards, they were riding a significant winning streak and a wave of euphoria. Too many games were left and too much ground had been recovered to write off the season. How zealous they became on the trade market would be determined in the week leading to the waiver deadline.

It arrived last night. So did reality.

As general manager Frank Wren continued to work the phones, the Orioles were headed toward another defeat. Left-hander Jamie Moyer held down his former club in the usual fashion, shutting them out after the second inning in Seattle's 5-2 victory before 45,139 at Safeco Field.

The loss was the fourth in five games for the Orioles (46-57) since their dramatic comeback against the Angels, which included three home runs by Albert Belle and a sudden-death single by Cal Ripken after taking a fastball off his batting helmet. His hit had pushed the Orioles' winning streak to six games, but they've since been pulled in the other direction.

"You look at it and it doesn't look good," said Jeff Conine, who had one of the Orioles' eight hits yesterday. "But you've just got to go out on the field and do the same thing, which is try to win. It's not like we're going to throw in the towel and quit playing."

Ripken's home run count held at 399, though he doubled in a run in the second inning and sent left fielder Brian Hunter a few steps from the warning track in the sixth. Ripken also singled with two outs in the ninth off closer Jose Mesa, making him 4-for-8 in the series and raising his average to .335. He hit .413 in July, with 10 doubles, five homers and 17 RBIs.

Mesa walked Will Clark to bring the tying run to the plate, but Conine struck out on three pitches with Harold Baines waiting on deck to pinch-hit for Charles Johnson.

Ripken probably would have reached his milestone if allowed to face Sidney Ponson, who again was vulnerable to the long ball. Ponson served up home runs to Ken Griffey in the first inning and John Mabry in the second, giving him a club-leading 23 in 140 innings.

Griffey's blast was his 34th this season -- leading the American League -- and the 384th of his career, moving him into 36th place on baseball's all-time list.

The Orioles gave Ponson a 2-1 lead in the second. Belle and Ripken opened with consecutive doubles, and Johnson stroked a two-out RBI single to left. Johnson has eight RBIs in his last three games, though he's still waiting for his first homer since June 25.

Mabry tied the game with his ninth homer. It also served as the Mariners' last hit until Griffey singled with one out in the fifth.

The Mariners moved ahead in the sixth on doubles by Martinez and backup catcher Tom Lampkin, who had only 16 RBIs before yesterday, though he's batting .319. A two-out single by Russ Davis, which Ponson called "the biggest hit of the game," upped the lead to 4-2.

The margin was enough for Moyer, who's made a career out of beating his former club. He improved to 9-1 against the Orioles, scattering seven hits in eight innings and didn't walk a batter. He only struck out one, and 17 of his outs were recorded by the outfield. Miller estimated that three of them would have been homers in Baltimore or the Kingdome, which closed last month.

Though he doesn't have a complete game in 22 starts this year, Moyer has gone eight innings six times. "He changes speeds and he puts the ball where he wants it," Conine said. "Location is everything, especially when you don't have an overpowering fastball."

Ponson was done after the sixth, assuring his first loss since July 8. After putting together back-to-back complete games, he hasn't gone more than six innings in his last two starts.

Miller suggested that Ponson may be tiring as the innings build and could be skipped for one turn or have his pitch count reduced.

"He may be wearing down just a little bit," Miller said. "He's been pitching great for us all year and he's a young kid. His velocity was down a little today, but he still struck out a bunch of people."

Ponson couldn't locate his pitches most of the afternoon, but denied that fatigue is a factor.

"My arm feels good," he said. " They're playing good defense behind me, but I give up the long ball and that's not helping.

"I couldn't hit my spots today and you get hurt when you do that. It was just a bad outing."

Left-hander Doug Johns replaced him and let in the Mariners' fifth run, though he was given an unwanted hand. Brian Hunter led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. Griffey bounced slowly to first baseman Clark, who glanced at Hunter as the speedster rounded third before flipping to Johns. By the time Clark pointed toward the plate, Hunter had sprinted home without drawing a throw.

"The pitcher didn't do a very good job of holding a guy who could fly after getting 0-2 on him and walking him," Miller said. "I think when Clark came up with the ball and looked, he thought he didn't have a shot because [Hunter] was 10 feet down the line and flying."

Scott Kamieniecki replaced Johns and struck out Rodriguez, but the damage was done. In this game, and perhaps the Orioles' season.

Orioles today

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Safeco Field, Seattle

Time: 4: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Mike Mussina (13-5, 3.69) vs. Mariners'

Jeff Fassero (4-12, 7.06)

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