By the time shortstop Mike Bordick had taken a few steps toward the home dugout and was tossed from yesterday's game, the Orioles already knew what brushes had been used to paint their 11-8 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
They weren't appreciative of the artwork created by plate umpire Kerwin Danley. It wasn't a pretty picture.
Though the Orioles wouldn't pin blame for defeat on an umpire, they were incensed by a strike zone that seemed to change as the game progressed and a 7-1 lead turned to dust. Bordick was ejected after striking out in the eighth inning, not long after manager Mike Hargrove received the same treatment for gesturing to Danley from the bench.
Already feeling that reliever Jorge Julio had been squeezed in the strike zone by Danley while allowing two runners in the eighth, the Orioles reached a boiling point after left-hander Buddy Groom entered the game. One of the most mild-mannered players in the clubhouse, Groom walked off the mound and barked at Danley after failing to get a called third strike on John Olerud and loading the bases.
The next batter, Bret Boone, hit a grand slam to break a 7-7 tie and force the Orioles to accept a split of the four-game series.
"I actually had [Olerud] before that," Groom said. "I had him on the 1-2, and I had him on 3-2. I don't complain about pitches and I don't complain about the umpiring, but in that situation, I've got the guy struck out twice and that changes the whole way I face Boone. I can pitch around Boone to face [Chris] Snelling on deck."
Snelling, batting .148 after going 0-for-5, provided a more favorable matchup than Boone, who drove in 141 runs last season
"I'm out there working, concentrating hard to do my job, and that's all we expect as pitchers," Groom said of the umpiring. "I'm doing what I can to throw strikes, and when I throw a strike, I just expect it to be called. In that situation it wasn't, and that's the way it goes."
Danley declined to speak with a reporter after the game.
Groom, who allowed a run for only the third time in 25 appearances, said the relievers noticed the strike zone shrinking as they sat in the bullpen. "It seemed to be OK early in the game," he said, "and then late in the game as they got a little closer to us, it seemed like it kind of tightened up for us."
Groom retired the next two batters after Boone's homer, and when Danley approached Hargrove with Seattle's lineup changes, he was met with a dismissive wave. After the ejection, Hargrove walked briskly toward the batter's box and vented his anger before Danley turned away.
"He told me the changes, and I was like, `What difference does it make?' " Hargrove said. "He was looking to run me from the third inning on."