SEATTLE - A meeting of former Orioles convened last night inside Safeco Field. Starting pitcher Aaron Sele (honorary member), left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes and left fielder Mark McLemore got together for new times' sake to account for the Seattle Mariners' 2-1 win over their old team.
Considered too great a health risk for the Orioles to sign as a free agent two years ago, Sele used 85 pitches to get 22 outs while remaining perfect in eight decisions this season.
Rhodes, who left via free agency the same winter, stemmed a critical eighth-inning rally. McLemore stole his fifth base of a three-game series and accepted an important walk during the Mariners' two-run third inning.
The Mariners completed a three-game sweep that left the Orioles 24-28 overall, 0-9 in the three-year history of Safeco Field and scrambling to right themselves on a three-city road trip that has begun ominously. The Orioles ended May just as they finished April - 12-14, in fourth place, and wondering when their offense will catch against solid pitching.
A late-inning rally at Sele soured when Rhodes relieved with one out in the eighth. With Jerry Hairston at third, Rhodes facing Brady Anderson and the infield in, first baseman John Olerud fielded a one-hop grounder and threw to catcher Tom Lampkin to stop Hairston. The play rendered Chris Richard's subsequent single meaningless as David Segui grounded out to end the threat.
The amazing 40-12 Mariners used closer Kazuhiro Sasaki to close out the ninth inning for his 21st save.
Want to win a bet? Name the major-league pitcher with the second-most wins to Pedro Martinez over the past four seasons?
Not Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine or Greg Maddux, each of whom has won 60.
Sele's 62 wins qualify.
The Mariners won their eighth straight game while improving to 11-0 in Sele's starts. Nine times in those 11 starts has Sele pitched at least six innings while allowing three earned runs or fewer, the definition of a quality start.
Last night he earned his 100th career win by nearly providing the definition of a no-hitter. The Orioles managed only two infield singles through six innings - Hairston's chopper that first baseman Olerud chose to allow to bounce past him, and Melvin Mora's fifth-inning bunt.
Sele allowed the Orioles their only early threat. His two first-inning walks and a wild pitch left runners at first and second with two outs in the first inning, but catcher Greg Myers' line drive to left field ended the rally. The Orioles offense then reverted behind Jose Mercedes (1-7). After scoring 22 runs in Mercedes' past three starts, the lineup failed to score at least four runs for the eighth time in his 11 starts this season.
Cal Ripken brought the Orioles within a run by lining his third home run to left field with two outs. Ripken's 420th career homer was his first since April 27, a span of 81 at-bats.
Held to four hits through six innings, the Mariners had chiseled a 2-0 lead thanks to Mercedes' lapse of control in the third inning. Third baseman and series nemesis David Bell's one-out single preceded back-to-back walks of Ichiro Suzuki and McLemore. Bell had five hits in the past two games, including a home run, double and three RBIs.
Designated hitter Edgar Martinez scored Bell with a fly ball that took center fielder Richard to the warning track for an over-the-shoulder catch. Mercedes clawed to within one strike of escaping without further damage when Olerud poked an opposite-field single to score McLemore. Like Jason Johnson the previous night, Mercedes escaped with two earned runs allowed despite six walks.
The Mariners made a habit of answering the Orioles whenever they scored this series. They almost extended the trend in the bottom of the seventh after loading the bases with one out on Bell's double, Suzuki's swinging bunt and uncontested stolen base, and an intentional walk of Edgar Martinez.
Hargrove stopped the rally by using Buddy Groom to retire Olerud on a 3-foot grounder in front of the plate and Mike Trombley to get Bret Boone on a grounder to second base.
The Sele matter remains a point of intrigue that the Orioles never publicly discussed. The club offered him a four-year, $29 million contract in December 1999 then revoked the offer because of concerns about his shoulder. However, the concerns did not prevent majority owner Peter Angelos approving a modified three-year proposal. While the Orioles fiddled, Sele's agents initiated lightning negotiations with the Mariners and their new general manager, Pat Gillick. A Washington native, Sele had hoped to sign with Mariners until overwhelmed by the Orioles' proposal.
Gillick worked to consummate a deal quickly. "It was," he said on the day Sele agreed to terms, "like a star falling from the sky."