Ailing O's a 3-1 pain to Mussina

Ace limits Mariners to 3 hits but lacks support afield, at bat

3 regulars miss 5th loss in 6

Back shelves Ripken

sub Conine flubs bunt

August 02, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- The trade deadline passed Saturday night with the Orioles making only one move, but it looked as though they had been picked apart yesterday. And the holes became much too obvious.

Manager Ray Miller glanced down his bench and wanted to cover his eyes. Cal Ripken was a late scratch because of back stiffness. Brady Anderson remained unavailable with a tender ankle. Will Clark was held out because of a sore ankle. Reserve catcher Mike Figga was the only position player in the dugout without issues.

The Orioles might have been left without a chance if not for Mike Mussina, who carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and a tie into the eighth. But he couldn't overcome a shortage of healthy bodies, as the Orioles were beaten by the Seattle Mariners, 3-1, before 45,149 at Safeco Field for their fifth loss in six games.

Russ Davis broke up the no-hit try by pulling Mussina's first pitch down the left-field line for a leadoff double. Davis was sacrificed to third, and Mussina lost his shutout and a 1-0 lead when David Bell flied to right. He would lose the game -- despite pitching a three-hitter -- in the eighth when John Mabry doubled just beyond diving center fielder Rich Amaral and emergency third baseman Jeff Conine threw away Dan Wilson's bunt single to give Seattle a 2-1 lead.

Wilson was sacrificed to third by Davis. The catcher broke for home on an attempted suicide squeeze and scored easily when Mussina's low sinker bounced off the heel of catcher Charles Johnson's glove and rolled about five feet toward the Mariners' dugout.

Conine started the game at first base but moved to third when Clark pinch hit for Jeff Reboulet in the eighth with a runner on second and two outs. It was only the fourth time Conine had played the position, all coming this year as a late-inning replacement. Though he has taken ground balls there during practice, he didn't have a fielding chance until yesterday.

"I put him in a tough spot, but I've got to try to score a run for Moose. That's the only move I've got," Miller said. "I can't hit for anybody else in the lineup."

Mussina had spoken with Conine before the bunt. Conine was supposed to cover the bag and let Mussina field the ball, but it had rolled too far up the line for the pitcher to make a play.

"Obviously you take ground balls, but a game situation is different," Conine said. "It's just a lack of experience, seeing different situations and knowing what to do. But it wasn't that difficult a play. I just made a bad throw.

"They can't keep the ball away from you the whole year. I was out there three or four other times and nothing was hit to me. It's going to happen sometime."

The outcome completed a Seattle sweep of the Orioles (46-58), who headed to Oakland for a three-game series that begins tonight. Maybe it'll be the site of Ripken's 400th home run, a milestone that looked so attainable yesterday with Jeff Fassero on the mound.

Fassero, who was expected to be traded over the weekend, leads the majors with 30 homers allowed. But the Orioles lost a favorable matchup when Ripken was replaced by Reboulet, who had been written in at second. It was the 36th game missed by Ripken, who is hitting .352 since coming off the disabled list on May 13.

"He came in and was stiff from yesterday," Miller said. "He worked with the trainer, and they all said he should skip a day."

Anderson's injury has become a source of greater concern. He hasn't even been cleared to pinch hit, and the original "day-to-day" prognosis is stretching to uncomfortable proportions.

Though Anderson has dismissed a suggestion that he could go on the disabled list, a move that would be retroactive to Friday, Miller hinted at the possibility.

"Right now, I'm worried that Brady can't play," he said. "It'll have to become more than day-to-day after tomorrow. That's too many days."

Asked whether the shortage of players could be addressed by today, Miller said: "I hope so. The only trouble is we're on the West Coast. But obviously not having Anderson and Ripken hurt us."

At least Clark was available. He was walked intentionally with first base open, and Amaral bounced into a force to end the inning.

"I had one move, and I used it," Miller said. "It's either let Rebs hit in the eighth with a runner in scoring position or send Clark and if they walk him I've got a .280 hitter at the plate. That's what I did."

Clark had his ankle wrapped in ice after the game but said he wanted to play nine innings. "That's [Miller's] prerogative. He's the guy who fills out the lineup card," Clark said.

Mussina who struck out eight in falling to 13-6, retired the first nine batters before issuing two walks in the fourth. Those were the only Mariners to reach until Davis sent Reboulet sprawling at third.

The game would turn into another tough-luck loss for Mussina, and the second in this city. He held the Mariners to one run through seven innings in a June 2 start at the Kingdome before they scored three times with two outs in the eighth.

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