Mariners remain safe in Safeco, top O's, 6-2

Orioles fall to 0-14 there as Erickson is undone by five-run fifth inning

May 25, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - The Orioles might be the only team in baseball that misses the Kingdome.

Sure, the old building lacked its charms, with a concrete facade and cavernous interior, but at least the Orioles won games there.

Last night, they continued their winless streak at Safeco Field.

The Seattle Mariners turned a nice little pitcher's duel into an offensive flurry, scoring five runs in the fifth inning to pull away for a 6-2 victory.

The loss dropped the Orioles to 0-14 at Safeco, which opened for the 2000 season and has housed two straight Mariners playoff teams. The Orioles haven't won in Seattle since June 1, 1999, their second-to-last game at the Kingdome.

Of course, this streak has a lot more to do with the team that calls Safeco home than the facility itself. During the fifth inning, the Mariners showed why they entered this game with the second-best record in baseball.

To that point, the Orioles were hanging right with the Mariners in a 1-1 tie. That was a little deceiving because Seattle All-Star pitcher Freddy Garcia (5-4) was dominant, while Orioles starter Scott Erickson (3-5) had to labor through his first four innings.

That seemed to catch up with him in the fifth.

Ichiro Suzuki, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, started the inning with one of his patented opposite-field singles, taking an 0-2 pitch from Erickson and dumping it into left field.

Suzuki struck out swinging in his first at-bat, but he drew a nine-pitch walk to start the third inning. Even though he was caught stealing on a terrific throw by Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil, Suzuki did his job by pushing Erickson's pitch count higher.

When Suzuki reached first in the fifth inning, Erickson couldn't help but keep an eye on him. That might have been part of the reason he left a 2-2 pitch to Mark McLemore out over the plate, and McLemore drilled it over the right-field fence.

"Chief's pretty quick back there," Erickson said of Gil. "As long as we're quick to home, obviously we can throw him [Suzuki] out. I didn't think after the first time we got him that he was going to run again. I just made a bad pitch because the ball tailed."

It was McLemore's fifth home run, and it extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games.

The Mariners were just getting started. Bret Boone and John Olerud singled, and then Ruben Sierra hit his sixth homer, a three-run shot that gave Seattle a 6-1 lead.

"Basically, the same thing happened on two pitches," Erickson said. "I tried to go inside on McLemore and Sierra, and both balls pretty much tailed right back down the middle, and they didn't miss them."

Mike Cameron hit another single off Erickson, the sixth hit in a row to start the inning, and at that point Orioles manager Mike Hargrove turned to his bullpen. Erickson threw 96 pitches, and was charged with six runs on nine hits in four-plus innings.

"His sinker flattened out and his breaking ball flattened out," Hargrove said. "Everything he threw was over the middle of the plate, and they made us pay."

The Orioles' Opening Day starter after returning from elbow surgery, Erickson has lost three of his past five starts and hasn't recorded a victory since a 13-0 rout of Kansas City on April 28.

Marty Cordova also had a night to forget with four strikeouts.

The Orioles carried an early lead after Tony Batista hit a one-out home run in the second inning. It was Batista's team-leading 11th home run, and it was also the Orioles' only hit until Melvin Mora homered to start the sixth.

Throwing a fastball that regularly hit 94 mph on the ballpark's radar gun, Garcia dominated the Orioles for seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out nine.

Garcia, who broke a personal two-game losing streak, looked much like he did last year, when he went 18-6 with an American League-best 3.05 ERA.

"He's pretty tough," Hargrove said. "He's got four pitches, and he throws them all for strikes. He's deserving of being their No. 1 guy."

After Mora's home run trimmed Seattle's lead to 6-2, Chris Singleton hit a one-out double to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. Singleton, batting third in the order for the second time in three games, matched the longest streak of his career, but he was stranded on second.

Jay Gibbons grounded to first, Batista walked and Cordova struck out to end the inning.

The Orioles fell to 2-2 on this trip to Oakland and Seattle. The Mariners won for just the second time in six games.

Today, each team will send a pitcher to the mound making his first major-league start, Travis Driskill for the Orioles and Rafael Soriano for the Mariners.

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Seattle Mariners

Site:Safeco Field, Seattle

Time:9:05

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Travis Driskill (1-0, 3.18) vs. Mariners' Rafael Soriano (0-0, 0.00)

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