SEATTLE — Late Orioles game: Last night's game between the Orioles and Mariners in Seattle ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at http://www.sunspot.net.
SEATTLE - The radar gun at Safeco Field was playing tricks on Orioles pitcher Rick Helling as he worked through the middle innings of Wednesday night's 7-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Helling would throw a fastball, and the scoreboard would say 82 mph. Then, he would throw a slider, and the board would say 81 mph. He breathed a little easier when Mariners reliever Aaron Taylor, whose pitches are regularly clocked in the mid-90s, tossed his first fast ball 88 mph.
"I think the gun was a little messed up." Helling said. "Or else, we're all in trouble."
Helling isn't in any trouble. In fact, he's starting to look like the pitcher the Orioles thought they were getting when they signed him two days before spring training.
With six strong innings, Helling evened his record at 6-6 and lowered his ERA to 5.65.
"On the whole, he has pitched pretty well." Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Especially the last two times out."
The Orioles knew they weren't getting an overpowering pitcher when they signed Helling to a minor league deal that guaran teed him a mere $1 million if he made the Opening Day roster. They were hoping he would be a steady force at the back of their rotation, eating innings so the bullpen didn't get overworked, and keep ing his team in the game.
It hasn't always been pretty, but Helling has been just that.
In his final start before the All-Star break, Helling held the Mariners to two runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out four.
He blanked Seattle until the fifth inning, when Ben Davis hit a run-scoring single to tie the game 1-1. The Orioles came back with three runs the next inning. Jay Gibbons hit a sacrifice fly, and Tony Batista hit a two-run homer, putting the Orioles ahead 4-1.
Helling had his toughest challenge in the sixth, as Randy Winn and Bret Boone opened the inning with singles, bringing All-Star designated hitter Edgar Martinez to the plate.
Martinez entered the at-bat hitting .373 with runners in scor ing position, but Helling used an array of fastballs, curveballs and sliders to strike him out for the second time in the game. It was a six-pitch at-bat, and each one registered 81-82 mph on the scoreboard.
Helling got another big out when John Olerud popped up to shortstop. Mike Cameron gave Seattle something to show for the struggle, hitting a run-scoring single to center field, but Mark McLemore flied out to left field, ending the inning.
"To give up one run in that situation, I'll take that every time against this lineup." Helling said.
Helling threw 106 pitches, so Hargrove went to his bullpen to start the seventh. The Orioles have been looking for a depend able reliever who can get a lead to Kerry Ligtenberg in the eighth inning, and they seem to have found one in Hector Carrasco.
Leading 4-2, Carrasco struck out Winn with runners at the corners for a big second out in the seventh. Carrasco, whose fastball was hitting 92 mph last weekend at Camden Yards, threw one past Winn for the strikeout, and it registered 89 mph on the stadium gun.
Boone flied out to end the seventh, and then the Orioles pulled away with two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth.
Mariners starter Ryan Franklin (6-8) went 6 2/3 innings in the loss, allowing four earned runs.
While Helling is getting the eighth-best run support in the American League (6.88 runs per nine innings), Franklin is getting the 13th worst at 4.67.
Helling was counting his blessings again, as the Orioles won for just the second time in 17 games at Safeco Field.
"I've seen this lineup enough to know they"re capable of hitting five, six, seven hits in a row." he said. "You can be winning 4-1, and all of a sudden it's 6-4."