Orioles fail, Mariners pass in late innings

Julio flops in ninth after Bastista, Gibbons fail to deliver in 5-4 loss

O's rally from four-run deficit

Erickson's winless May ends with solid outing

Conine, Fordyce hit HRs

May 31, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Over the past three years, the Orioles have had losses against the Seattle Mariners that left them feeling a little undermanned. Last night was different. The Orioles made chances for themselves and came away feeling they had underachieved.

Seattle stormed out to a four-run lead, and the Orioles came back to tie the score, turning the game into a tale of two late-inning scoring opportunities. The Orioles missed their chance; the Mariners didn't.

Jeff Cirillo drove home the go-ahead run off Orioles closer Jorge Julio in the ninth inning, and Seattle claimed a 5-4 victory before 30,287 at Camden Yards.

The Mariners have won 18 of their past 20 games against the Orioles, who have other close losses in that span, though perhaps none more frustrating than this.

"The difference," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, "was they executed with a man on third base and less than two outs, and we didn't."

Orioles starter Scott Erickson remained winless in his past six starts, but he seemed to deserve better after keeping the Mariners scoreless from the third inning through the eighth.

Jeff Conine hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Brook Fordyce hit a bases-empty shot in the seventh - his first homer since Aug. 17 - to tie the score 4-4.

The Orioles had a golden opportunity to take the lead and put Erickson in line for the win in the eighth inning. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Gary Matthews.

But after Shigetoshi Hasegawa walked Jeff Conine intentionally, he struck out Tony Batista, and former Orioles left-hander Arthur Rhodes got Jay Gibbons to ground to second, ending the inning.

"I'm struggling a little right now with runners in scoring position," said Batista, whose average fell to .235 in those situations. "I think I'm trying to do too much, and I didn't do anything."

Hargrove said he debated sending Erickson out for the ninth inning, but Erickson had already thrown 114 pitches and had just sat through a long bottom of the eighth. So Hargrove went to his bullpen.

Julio (2-3) got in trouble right away, as Desi Relaford singled and Dan Wilson moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. After Relaford stole third base, Cirillo worked the count to 3-1, then drilled a hanging slider down the left-field line for a double.

Cirillo had been hitless in his previous 16 at-bats, lowering his average to .229, but he came through this time.

Rhodes (3-1) earned the win, and Kazuhiro Sasaki pitched the ninth for his 12th save.

Afterward, Hargrove wasn't buying into the theory that his team was simply undermanned.

"We're a big-league team, we show up to play, and we're not offering any excuses or asking for any," Hargrove said. "I think they're at a different stage in their goals than we are. We certainly have as good of players as they do, just not as many, and I'm talking about experience. We're not overmatched, by even a little bit."

The Orioles are 4-8 in Erickson's starts this season and have lost five of them in a row. He was 3-2 with a 3.57 ERA during April, but went winless in May.

This time, he held the Mariners to four runs (three earned) over eight innings.

"Scotty Erickson probably threw as well - once he got past the third inning - as he's thrown all year long," Hargrove said. "And that was good to see."

The Mariners certainly didn't hit the ball hard against Erickson. He retired the first two batters of the game and thought he had Carlos Guillen struck out until umpire Ed Rapuano called the 2-2 pitch a ball.

Guillen promptly singled up the middle, John Olerud walked and Chris Snelling hit another single up the middle, scoring Guillen for a 1-0 lead.

Erickson hit Relaford with a pitch to start the second inning and later said he thought the pitch didn't hit Relaford at all. It proved costly, as Wilson singled and Cirillo reached on an error, loading the bases. The error was on Erickson, who fielded Cirillo's sacrifice bunt and pulled Roberts off the bag with his throw to first.

Hit machine Ichiro Suzuki delivered a run-scoring single up the middle, then Mark McLemore hit a bouncer to first, scoring Wilson. Guillen followed with a sacrifice fly, stretching Seattle's lead to 4-0.

"I actually don't think I hit the guy [Relaford]," Erickson said. "That's just a bad break. I had a guy [Guillen] struck out, and that turned into another bad break. And then I didn't do a good job fielding my position, which probably cost me a run or two.

"Unfortunately, that was the difference in the game."

Said Hargrove: "It's tough against teams like the Mariners that have the offensive firepower they do. You give them free base runners, they have a tendency to do what they did."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Seattle Mariners

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Mariners' Jamie Moyer (4-2, 4.25) vs. Orioles' Travis Driskill (2-0, 2.60)

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